For Julia Blake, staying in the present has helped her produce some big moments this spring for the Hun School softball team.
Last Thursday, with Hun locked in a 0-0 tie against visiting Delaware Valley in the bottom of the sixth inning, junior shortstop Blake wasn’t worried about the fact that she had struck out and popped up in her two previous at-bats.
“I take it pitch by pitch, it doesn’t matter what happened the pitch before or the at bat before,” said Blake.
“I just see the pitch and hit the ball. I just got up there and visualized myself hitting the ball, especially after two strikes, you can’t get down on yourself in that clutch position. I did my best.”
Blake proceeded to come up big, blasting a triple to the left field fence. “I think I was thinking run,” said Blake. “I think I knew I came through.”
Displaying her base-running skill, Blake came home on a sacrifice bunt by Vicki Leach to score the lone run in a 1-0 victory for Hun as the Raiders improved to 3-2.
“We work on that one with my club team; being smart on the bases and watching what the field players do,” said Blake, who plays for the Finch’s Aces club team. “I just had to watch what she did and I ran my hardest.”
Hun was looking to play smarter last Thursday in the wake of a disappointing 11-10 loss to Hill on April 14.
“Hill was a tough loss for us and we realized that we had to bounce back and I think that is definitely what we did today,” said Blake.
“We had to tighten up the defense, we had a better mindset at the plate, and I think it really paid off, especially on defense.”
Leading the infield at shortstop, Blake made several sparkling plays in the victory.
“I am focused on breaking it down step by step, seeing the ball in my glove,” said Blake, reflecting on her defensive approach.
The Hun players have also focused on adopting an upbeat mentality this spring.
“The one thing we have worked on this season is just staying up and being positive and having each other’s backs because that is what wins games,” added Blake.
Blake has also put a lot of work into her hitting and has produced all spring, coming up with several multi-hit performances.
“I came out really banging my freshman year; last year I struggled in some places offensively,” said Blake.
“I came back this year saying I am a leader and I am going to try my best. I am going to take it pitch by pitch and visualize myself hitting the ball and just believe and that has really helped me. The biggest thing is that I am having fun again.”
Hun head coach Kathy Quirk is having fun watching Blake blossom this spring.
“Julia is doing a nice job for us with her enthusiasm; her leadership as a junior is outstanding,” said Quirk.
“I told her that even though she is not a captain, she can still be a leader. She is doing a great job with the bat. I think she is a little more confident at the bat. She is a little bit more selective at what she is hitting and she just drives the ball.”
Quirk likes the outstanding work she is getting from junior Vicky Leach at second base.
“I am really pleased with her; she has stepped up,” said Quirk. “She should have been our catcher but we needed her at second base and she did what I asked her to do. She is doing a great job.”
Two other Hun veterans, Kristen Manochio and Kameran McNair, are giving the Raiders what they need.
“Kristen at third base has stepped it up; she has always been an outfielder for us so it has been a new experience for her,” added Quirk. “Kam McNair at first base has come in and done a nice job for us.”
Sophomore pitching ace Alexis Goeke sparkled in the win over Delaware Valley, yielding one hit and striking out four.
“The pitcher (Alexis Goeke) has been struggling and we have been working hard with her,” said Quirk. “She is doing what we are asking her to do and today she did that and it showed.”
With Hun headed into a busy week with home games against Lawrenceville on April 24, Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on April 26, WW/P-N on April 28, and Princeton Day School on April 29, Quirk is hoping her team can build on its performance last Thursday.
“I am very pleased; I am hoping we move on from here,” said Quirk. “We have Peddie next Tuesday (April 22) and I think this is something that has given them the confidence to move on. We had a good practice yesterday and I told them you can play with the best if you want and you have to have the confidence to do it.”
Blake, for her part, is confident that Hun can play with anyone. “Our big thing was defense today and it really stayed tough,” said Blake.
“If we can be that tough against Peddie and our other games next week I think we will be successful.”