---- — It started with a phone call to her dad, a phone call Katie Bettencourt makes every single day.
Bettencourt is a senior at UMass Amherst and, for some of her career, has been one of the most feared hitters of a softball in New England (she was co-MVP of the Atlantic-10 as a sophomore).
This phone call was a little different than some others. This was sort of a plea for help. Katie was mired in the worst prolonged slump of her career, 3-for-28 (.107) and .167 for the season, in the midst of the worst losing streak of her life (10 losses in a row).
While UMass was coming off its annual Florida trip and another in California against top 50 teams in the country, this had not been the norm. Bettencourt won two state titles while playing for Salem High and three Atlantic-10 titles and NCAA tourney berths at UMass Amherst.
The lowest of the lows was wondering if getting the waiver for a fifth year — she was injured two years when her liver was lacerated sliding into second base — was worth it. Of course, it was, but those negative feelings always have a way of creeping in a slump like Bettencourt’s.
“I was a mess,” recalled the 22-year-old Katie. “It was everything. I wasn’t hitting. The team was not playing well. I’m the power hitter and I wasn’t hitting for power. I was putting too much pressure on myself, feeling like I had to be the star of the team, the hero.”
Her dad, Dave Bettencourt, one of the best baseball and softball hitting instructors in New England, had some advice for Katie. But he didn’t mention anything about weight shift, elbow position or follow through.
His advice was as simple as its ever been: Hit the ball and have fun.
“He told me to forget about mechanics,” said Katie. “He said, ‘See the ball and hit the ball.’ He told me I was a good hitter, to trust myself. It was like the world was lifted off my shoulders.”
The next game Katie hit a two-run homer against Dayton. UMass lost, 9-4, but the advice started clicking after the fourth inning homer.
UMass played Dayton again a day later and broke its 11-game losing streak with a 14-12 win. Katie’s see-it-and-hit-it philosophy led to one of the best hitting performances of her career, going 5-for-5 with two more homers and three RBI.
“It was definitely a new me,” said Katie. “I went from the lowest of lows to feeling like I could hit everything out of the park.”
UMass then beat Boston College, 8-7, with Katie getting two hits, an RBI and walk. That was followed by a 2-run homer and three RBI in Game 1 versus St. Bonaventure and two hits and two more RBI in Game 2 of the sweep (6-4 and 12-4).
This weekend Bettencourt Wrecking Ball continued, with two hits in a both games on Saturday (a split versus Fordham) and three more hits in a relatively easy sweep yesterday over La Salle, 5-0 and 8-0.
Since the cheap advice from dad, Katie is 18-for-31 (.581), with 15 RBI, 13 runs scored and three homers. More importantly, UMass is 7-2 over that stretch, including 6-2 in league games.
“Hitting is contagious. So is winning,” said Katie. “I’m a senior and a leader on this team. We are playing much better as a team. A lot of my teammates are getting hot at the right time, too. This is more like I thought it would be. But we still have a long way to go. It’s time to have some fun.”
You can email Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Katie's hot streak Date Opp. AB R H RBI Result Mar 22 at Dayton 3 1 1 2 L, 9-4 Mar 23 at Dayton 5 3 5 3 W, 14-12 Mar 27 vs. BC 3 0 2 1 W, 8-7 Mar 30 vs. St. Bon 2 1 1 3 W, 6-4 Mar 30 vs. St. Bon 4 2 2 2 W, 12-4 Apr 5 vs. Fordham 3 1 2 3 W, 9-5 Apr 6 vs. Fordham 5 2 2 0 L, 17-11 Apr 7 vs. La Salle 3 2 2 0 W, 5-0 Apr 7 vs. La Salle 3 1 1 1 W, 8-0 Totals 31 13 18 15 Record 7-2