This Scout powers Wolfpack softball
Change is agreeing very well with former Trinity High standout Scout Albertson and her N.C. State softball teammates.
The transformation came in the form of adhering to a more aggressive offensive philosophy put forth by first-year Wolfpack head coach Shawn Rychcik and his staff.
“We’re a more power hitting team than in the past,” Albertson told The High Point Enterprise in a telephone interview this week. “We’ve gotten stronger in the weight room and in the field. We’re hitting a lot of line drives in practice and in games that’s meant we’ve hit a lot more home runs. They’ve stressed not to just hit the ball to have a good at-bat.”
The Wolfpack has cracked 83 home runs as opposed to 35 last season with 15 of the round trippers coming in two doubleheaders, setting an ACC record with seven in one and breaking it with eight later in a twin bill against Boston College. They’ve hit for better average (.276 as opposed to .261), seen their RBIs go from 204 to 247, scored 32 more runs, put together 137 more total bases and upped their slugging percentage to .517 from .381.
“We bought into what the coaching staff was trying to teach us and it has been really effective,” Albertson said. “It took us a little bit of time to make the change. But, we knew the coaches have had successful softball careers. Once we knew each other a little bit, we knew this was the real deal.”
The offensive fireworks are the reason a team that went 23-31 and 5-16 ACC a year ago became the real deal this year, improving to 30-18-1 overall while finishing 13-7 in the league with a nine-game winning streak as it heads into Thursday’s quarterfinals of the eight-team ACC Tournament as the second seed. State plays seventh-seeded Virginia in the opening round.
“It’s been more comforting defensively,” Albertson said. “Our best pitcher knows that we are going to score runs for her. She knows she doesn’t have to shut everybody out for us to win.”
Albertson, a junior, has served as a key figure in the offensive explosion, jumping from five home runs to 12 — not bad for someone who says she had only two or three homers in high school. Her batting average has also skied, going from .199 to .299. She has 80 total bases and a slugging percentage of .630.
“It’s been fun,” Albertson said. “At Trinity, our park was so big that I didn’t hit that many home runs and I had only five last year.”
She credits the improvement at the plate in part to a change other than the difference in offensive philosophy. She believes that regularly playing in the outfield for the first time in her career has helped after playing shortstop and third, and starting last season at third.
“My freshman year at State was the first time I got a lot of outfield experience,” Albertson said. “I absolutely love it. I’m happy where I’m playing. It was a change judging fly balls but once I got the hang of it, it was a lot of fun.
“And I honestly think being in outfield has helped me offensively. When I was at third, I was always really into the game. But being in the outfield has let me focus more on my hitting. The outfield is more laid back than playing in the infield. It’s not as intense. And, by playing in the outfield, I have more time to practice my hitting.”
She had a big part in the home run fest in the two doubleheaders, hitting four in each. She capped the Boston College outburst with a grand slam.
Albertson said she now can tell when she might get hot at the plate.
“When we’re doing batting practice and I get in the box and see balls come at me, it’s just a different feeling sometimes,” she said. “I’ll see the ball all the way to my bat. This year, I’m just so much more confident, even if I don’t get a home run, it’s all about having quality at-bats. That’s something our coaches have preached, instead of getting a hit every time, have a quality at-bat. When you do that, that’s when you gain that confidence and know you are going to do well. And, it’s just having that confidence is a big thing that has helped me.”