ALGONQUIN – Alyssa Lach refused to be content with past success.
Despite an impressive junior season, Lach took hitting lessons during winter break, tweaking a swing that was already so dangerous. In better shape from playing basketball after not playing the year before, Lach worked with her future Butler coach Scott Hall to adjust her batting stance and the way she loaded her hands.
The results from the work and changes she put in were quickly noticeable for the senior third baseman.
After hitting nine home runs last year, Lach was an even tougher out this season. Lach led all hitters with 14 home runs, setting a Jacobs single-season record, and was a pain for opposing pitchers, posting an area-best .609 on-base percentage.
“I just try to get better each year, and I did that senior year,” Lach said. “When batting, the team looks to me to start something so I just try to put the ball in play and get on base.”
Lach possesses a rare mix of being able to hit for power yet remains a patient hitter who rarely expands her strike zone. Lach struck out only three times this season and finished with 53 hits for a .546 batting average. She shattered Jacobs’ career home run record, finishing with 30 career homers – doubling the previous mark.
“That just shows you what kind of competitor she is because even with nine home runs (last year), she didn’t really feel like that was as good as she could do,” Jacobs athletic director and former softball coach Jeremy Bauer said. “She put in the time and effort for all the preparation she did.”
For her accomplishments in an outstanding season to cap a standout career, Lach is the Northwest Herald softball Player of the Year as chosen by the sports staff with input from local coaches.
Patience has been an important part of Lach’s game, especially earlier this season when pitchers were careful against her leading to a bunch of walks. Pitchers were right to be cautious. Lach finished the season with an impressive 1.124 slugging percentage.
“I’ve changed my swing a little bit each year, and my power numbers have gone up each year,” Lach said. “My goal this year was to get to 10 (homers). It was a good way to end my career.”
In preseason, Lach, who will play softball in college at Butler, offered to pitch if it meant helping the Golden Eagles. Bauer was impressed by Lach’s willingness to pitch even though she won’t be playing that position in college. She even earned a win while in the circle for Jacobs.
“She was one of the players who helped us in the good times and the bad and wouldn’t let the team give up,” Bauer said. “There were a few games where we were pretty much counted out, and if Alyssa wasn’t on the team, chances are a lot of those games don’t go the way they do. Just her pushing everyone on the team and leading by example was huge for us.”
Defensively, Lach’s defense couldn’t be overlooked by opponents either. Her defensive play at third often prevented teams from successfully implementing the elements of bunting or slap hitting. Lach’s ability to read the play, and backed by a strong arm, created few opportunities for opposing teams whenever they hit the ball towards third. It’s an area of her game Lach takes pride in.
Bauer said Lach’s lasting impact on Jacobs will be the way she proved how a player can improve from freshman to senior year. Lach, a four-year starter, will certainly be tough for the Golden Eagles to replace.
“That’s the mark of a really special player, someone who isn’t comfortable with not just being good,” Bauer said. “They want to continue to get better and better each year. How many people get comfortable at being pretty good and leave it at that? She’s an example of someone who wasn’t satisfied with being pretty good.”