Kocjan anchors Tiger softball defense from behind plate

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Author: Noel Hemphill

After playing every softball position except for shortstop and pitcher for Occidental, biology major Kristine Kocjan (junior) has found her niche squatting behind home plate.

“Playing catcher is fun,” Kocjan said. “You are in charge of calling pitches and can see the whole field.”

Kocjan’s years on the diamond have prepared her for the stressful nature of the catching position, which is essentially the captain of the battery. The Redwood, Calif., native began playing baseball at age five when her parents signed her up for T-ball. Growing up playing with the boys led Kocjan to care about the sport, giving her a competitive edge when she joined a nearby softball league.

From there, the game became Kocjan’s passion and year-round activity.

“Every spring, I played baseball,” Kocjan said. “Then when I was 12, I switched to playing softball. When the league [season] ended, I joined the traveling team, and I really liked it. I was lucky my parents supported me.”

Playing through Occidental’s 14-week, 40-game season for the third time illustrates Kocjan’s dedication to the sport. Tiger head coach Ali Haehnel touted Kocjan’s many strengths that she brings to the team over the course of a long season.

“She is vocal and passionate,” Haehnel said via email. “[Kocjan] genuinely loves the game and is a fierce competitor. She raises our intensity.”

Since joining the squad as the sole first-year in 2012, Kocjan has consistently started behind the dish for the black and orange. Teammate and fellow biology major Jerika Barron (senior) noted that Kocjan has performed strongly despite being the only player on the team representing the Class of 2015.

“Being the lone member of her class on the team, she’ll be flying solo all four years,” Barron said. “Kocjan seemed to embrace it and never let it hold her back.”

With four games remaining this season, Kocjan is tied for second on the team in batting average at .282, which she complements with an on-base percentage of .321. She also gets the job done on defense with a respectable .969 fielding percentage.

When not between the lines, Kocjan can be found working to advance her dream of attending medical school. She works as a Resident Advisor (RA) and is a member of Delta Omicron Tau sorority. While consistently busy with biology labs and responsibilities with her residents, Kocjan continues to return to softball each day with high aspirations for the future.

“I come back with the hope that next year will be even better; that we will be contenders for playoffs and that next year I will be playing even better than the year before,” Kocjan said.

Outfielder and captain Jackie Shimamoto (senior) extended praise for Kocjan’s efforts to make the team better with every practice.

“[Kocjan] is a team player that does everything she can to contribute to the success of our team,” Shimamoto said. “She is a very hardworking player, willing to put in extra time even outside of practice so she is prepared to give her best for her team.”

Haehnel agreed with Shimamoto, crediting Kocjan’s role on the team as one of its keys to success.

“She is tough behind the plate, frames well, blocks well and commands the field,” Haehnel said via email. “Her personality is peppy and energetic, and she is always quick with a joke, which always lightens the mood for our team.”

Barron noted that the future for the team looks bright with Kocjan at the helm.

“Next year, I know [Kocjan] will step up as a leader, and I look forward to seeing what the team can do as a whole,” Barron said.

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