Baxter’s bat comes alive for Rock

SLIPPERY ROCK — Cait Baxter could count on one hand the number of hits she had last season for the
Slippery Rock University softball team.
“I only had five,” Baxter said.
To say the
Butler graduate and sophomore infielder/outfielder for The Rock struggled would be an understatement.
She hit .135 and was at times lost at the plate.
Baxter, though, refused to give in to the adversity.
“I feel like I don’t have time to doubt myself,” Baxter said. “There’s no time for that.”
So Baxter went back to work in the summer, fall and winter. She de-constructed a swing that had served her very well at
Butler and rebuilt her approach at the plate from the ground up.
As she did, working closely with SRU head softball coach Stacey Rice, she discovered flaws in her swing and tried her best to correct them.
“I just went back to basics again. Pretty much started over,” Baxter said. “It was a little weird breaking down my swing and seeing, OK, there’s where the mistakes were.”
The reconstruction is complete. Baxter is batting .333 this season with two home runs, 14 RBI, a .509 slugging percentage and a .409 on base percentage.
Baxter is also one of the best hitters on The Rock roster with runners on base.
She’s been a potent weapon for Rice.
“She went to work,” Rice said. “She spent a lot of time in the offseason. Her focus on the game is unlike anything I’ve seen before.”
Rice used Baxter at the beginning of the season as a pinch hitter extraordinaire, bringing her to the plate with runners on base because of her keen ability to hit when the pressure was at its highest.
Baxter did so well in that role she earned herself starts as the designate player — basically a DH in The Rock lineup.
“The mentality she had of coming in off the bench cold with runners on base and delivering is a special talent,” Rice said. “You can’t coach that.
“She’s seeing the ball real well,” Rice added. “She’s doing a great job for us.”
Baxter is still adapting to her role.
At Butler, she played shortstop and hit in the heart of the lineup.
While she has batted in the third spot in The Rock lineup recently, her position in the order has fluctuated greatly this season.
“It’s a lot different,” Baxter said. “But this is the role the team needs me in and I’ve always been a team player. This is what the team needs right now.
“It’s me finding my footing on the team,” Baxter added. “It’s been a big change.”
Baxter, who began her college career at Kent State University before transferring to SRU, said her struggles have taught her many things.
“I definitely have found out what I can and can’t do,” Baxter said. “I found that I need to capitalize on the things I can do well and work on the things I don’t do so well. Now I know what it takes to succeed.”
What The Rock needs to succeed this season is some big wins this week.
SRU is 14-18 overall and 11-11 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference-West.
SRU won three of four against Mercyhurst over the weekend and has 10 more conference games scheduled in the next seven days.
Those games will decide The Rock’s postseason fate.
And so, too, might Baxter’s bat.
“This is probably the biggest week we’ve ever played,” Baxter said. “I’m not too worried, though. I feel like if we play well, we can get into the playoffs.”