Baxter key piece of The Rock
Butler graduate true team leader on softball field
By John Enrietto
Eagle Sports Editor
SLIPPERY ROCK — When it comes to softball, nothing ever stays the same for Caitlin Baxter.
The Butler graduate is playing her fourth different position in four years as a senior on the Slippery Rock University softball team.
She hit .135 as a freshman, .263 as a junior and she’s hitting .400 now.
“Caitlin has definitely elevated her game this year,” SRU coach Stacey Rice. “She’s a senior and she senses the responsibility of leadership there.
“She will do anything for the good of this team. I’d love to have 12 Caitlins on this roster.”
Baxter played left field her freshman year. She played first base as a sophomore, second base last year and moved over to third base this season.
She played shortstop during her softball career at Butler.
“No big deal,” Baxter said. “I go where the team needs me. Our third baseman graduated from last year and we had nobody coming back at that position.
“I figured I’d better go learn it. Somebody had to play there.”
Baxter had never played third base before. She’s only committed three errors through the first 17 games this season.
“During fall ball, I played third and got to know the position,” she said. “The big difference over there is no reaction time. The ball gets on you pretty quick.”
Offensively, Baxter has blossomed as a hitter. Her .400 batting average includes 22 hits in 55 at bats, three doubles, a pair of homers and nine RBI.
Slippery Rock has hit just three home runs as a team this spring.
“Caitlin is our power bat, the one player who can give us the occasional home run,” Rice said. “She can drive the ball, but we don’t want her thinking she has to hit a bunch of balls over the fence.
“Our offense this season is about singles and doubles, finding the gaps and bunching hits together.”
“Home runs are not going to make the difference for us,” she said. “We have to put the ball in play, move runners around, play small ball.
“I put in a lot of extra work with my hitting during the off-season. It’s nice to see that it’s paying off.”
SRU is 6-11 so far this season. Baxter has not enjoyed a winning season with the program yet as The Rock finished 20-23, 25-23 and 16-26 the past three seasons.
“There’s still time to turn that around this year,” she said. “Everything just has to come together.”
Baxter is majoring in secondary education. She will do her student teaching in the fall, then get her degree.
She plans to get into coaching, preferably at the high school level.
“I love the game so much,” Baxter said. “When I can’t play anymore, I’d love to be able to teach it.”
And Rice believes she would be good at it.
“Absolutely,” she said. “She is a great kid and she has a passion for the game to go along with her knowledge of it.
“Players like Caitlin Baxter should get into coaching.”