Jenn Salling waits for Taylor Smith to finish up with batting practice. This image was taken with a tilt-shift lens that alters the focal plane of the image.
The Huskies might be a little weaker up the middle of the diamond without All-American second baseman Ashley Charters, who hit .447 as a senior last year.
But shortstop Jenn Salling may be able to temper that loss somewhat as a junior this year, her second season – and first full one – with the Huskies after transferring from Oregon.
Salling started 30 games at shortstop and batted third in every regular-season game she played in after becoming eligible at the beginning of spring quarter last year, but looked nothing like the All-American she was at Oregon two seasons prior.
She had red-shirted the 2008 season to play for Canada in the Olympics, then decided to transfer from Oregon and enrolled at a junior college in the Seattle area to become eligible to transfer to the UW.
But it didn’t go so smoothly at first. Salling struggled at the plate, batting just .100 through her first 15 games, leaving some wondering why she was still hitting third in the order.
“I guess taking eight, nine months off, I couldn’t have expected any different,” she said. “It would have been kind of superwoman of me to come in after nine months off and hit, like, .450. I was disappointed, being the competitor that I am.”
Then things started to click. She upped her average from .100 to .270 over the final 15 games, torching opposing pitchers in the postseason to the tune of a .415 average and a team-leading .500 on-base percentage.
That’s probably closer to her true capabilities as a hitter. Salling hit .481 with 14 home runs in her only season at Oregon, and was named a first-team All-American for her efforts.
“I think Jenn understands what she can do within the game of softball at the Division I level,” head coach Heather Tarr said. “Obviously she’s an internationally seasoned player, so she’s a mature player. … Of course, last year, if you looked at her stats, you’re like, ‘What is this girl doing batting third?’ But if you look at her postseason execution and her ability to put the ball in play, obviously you get who she is and what she’s all about.”
Whatever pop that Salling provides to the Huskies’ lineup could end up being a nice complement to Kimi Pohlman, who was named a top-50 finalist for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award. Pohlman is made more from the Charters mold; she’s a contact hitter with blazing speed who figures to hit toward the top of the lineup and set the table with her ability to get on base and then steal a couple. She was 20 for 21 on steal attempts as a freshman last year to go along with a .360 batting average.
But even if Pohlman lives on base, it’ll be Salling and the rest of the middle of UW’s order that has to drive her in.
Salling seems up to that task.
“I’m excited,” Salling said. “Like coach Tarr said, the softballs that we go through every day [in practice], it’s crazy. There may not be as much speed, but like she said, the power’s there. … Offensively, we’re pretty sound. I think we’re pretty lucky that way.”
Reach Sports Editor Christian Caple at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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