Back when Whitney (Mollica) Goldstein was a star player at Salem, I remember being incredulous when she hit .556 as a senior, and when she was Gatorade Player of the Year.
In those days, before the mound was moved back from 40 to 43 feet, it was unusual for anyone to hit .400, much less .500.
Now, it’s almost commonplace.
Led by Salem sophomore Ashley Conway’s .587 average, there were a startling 18 area players who hit at least .500 this spring and more than 25 more who hit over .400.
The averages were more becoming for slow-pitch softball than fast-pitch. The question becomes: Why?
Some of it has to do with the greater distance from the pitcher to the batter from when Mollica played. The hitters have finally adjusted to the change and have learned that they have more time to see the ball and more time to adjust.
But that is clearly not the only reason for the inflated averages. Compared to 10 years ago, there are clearly not as many dominant power pitchers, Whether that’s because the distance to the plate is greater is debatable.
But, also, hitting has become more of a science as well as the result of tireless practice. Years ago, the only specialty coaches in softball were pitching coaches. Now, the better batters have hitting coaches.
“I honestly think the hitting has gotten better,” said Goldstein, who is now the head coach at WPI. “I think the new style of hitting is being spread and coaches are becoming more aware.
“I also do not think the pitching is as dominant, or is more rare to find, but players are becoming more versed with hitting so you see more overall better hitters.”
And many of the best hitters spend countless hours hitting in the offseason. Salem sophomore Ashley Conway, for example, who made an incredible transition from JV player to an area-leading .587 hitter, went to the Play Ball batting cages four to five times a week throughout the winter.