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AWC's Ploesch is the center of attention
Two years ago, a gaping hole existed in center field for the Arizona Western softball team after the graduation of an All-American.
That void has been filled by a member of that year's recruiting class, although she was brought in as a pitcher.
Courtnie Ploesch has been a stalwart both offensively and defensively the past two seasons for the Matadors, batting leadoff and playing center for most of that time. But when she came to Yuma from Blythe, Calif., as a freshman in 2011, she was a pitcher.
“I never really played outfield until I got here,” Ploesch said. “I liked pitching, but at this level I wasn't quite ready for it, plus I was drained from it from pitching all my life. High school I pitched every single game, all four years as varsity. I was really tired. I felt like I should be in the outfield and I would be comfortable out there.”
So she asked coach Nikki Bethurum for a shot at playing in the outfield. The team had just lost Jessica Soria, who is currently in her second season at UC-Santa Barbara and was an NCAA All-American last year and an NJCAA All-American her sophomore year at AWC, setting the school stolen base record in the process.
Bethurum said she liked Ploesch as a pitcher, but liked her even more in the field and at the plate.
“She actually came here starting as a pitcher,” Bethurum said. “She had good movement as a pitcher, but she asked about outfield, got a couple chances out there and ran with those chances. She really made herself known as our center fielder.”
Ploesch is hitting .374, third on the team. She leads the team with 46 hits, 37 runs and 12 steals and, despite batting leadoff, is third in both RBIs (27) and home runs (three).
The Matadors enter today's home doubleheader against conference doormat GateWay (0-22 in ACCAC play) with a 16-6 mark in the conference and in third place. They're coming off a doubleheader sweep Tuesday of Eastern Arizona and giving them momentum going into the last half of the season.
“I kind of did expect it out of us,” Ploesch said. “We work really hard at practice and we want to win.”
In that doubleheader sweep of the Gila Monsters, Ploesch persevered a close Game 2 win with a big defensive play. The bases were loaded with one out and she caught a pop fly. Instead of trying to gun the runner out at plate, she threw to second to get a relatively easy out and preserving a 3-2 win and a sweep.
“When I'm in the outfield, I think. I look around — what are my situations, what are my options,” Ploesch said. “I was looking at the scoreboard and we're up by two and the bases loaded.
“I knew the runner was going to score on a pop fly, so I thought, OK, my best bet is to look at the runners to see which one I could get. The girls at second going to third, I knew I had a better chance of leaving her along and getting the one at two, 'cause the one at two didn't expect me to throw her out.”
And at the plate, Bethurum said, Ploesch is instrumental in getting the game rolling, whether it be with a hard out or a home run.
“That leadoff position is very important to get some things going for us,” Bethurum said. “She makes sure she sets a strong tone for us.”