Author: Malcolm MacLeod
Occidental Softball split their two-game series with St. Katherine College over the weekend, winning the second game 5-4. First-year Mackensie Priley was dominant at the plate during the second game, hitting a double and a three-run home run. Results like this may be indicative of Priley’s dedication to her craft, however she attributes her success at the plate so far this year to the team’s new batting coach.
Priley, a Roseville, California native, has been playing softball since the age of five. The undeclared second baseman began playing on a competitive travel team at nine years old and flew around the country playing ball.
“We traveled to Florida, Alabama, Texas, Colorado. I played on that team for so long with the same girls year after year, and it was like we became a family,” Priley said. “I grew up with them, they’re really good friends and a huge part of my life so I do miss that a lot, but honestly the transition here has been amazing.”
Priley is one of only 10 players on this year’s softball team. She has nothing but positive things to say about her teammates, and looks forward to watching the program grow under the young leadership of her class.
“Our whole team is strong at bat,” Priley said. “We’re low in numbers but everyone is really good. Everyone contributes. We’re a small team but I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people.”
Sophomore right fielder Devon DeRaad* opened up the 2015 season in a big way for the Tigers last weekend against Pacific University.
The Tigers dropped the first game 6-2, but won the second and third with some serious help from DeRaad, who recorded four home runs during the series.
In the second game of the series, DeRaad went 3 for 6 with two home runs, scoring three runs and four RBIs in the 5-3 victory. The next day, he hit two more homers, contributing to Occidental’s 11-5 lead late in the eighth inning.
DeRaad was a designated hitter last year, but has since landed in right field, where he will be a major presence this season. He attributes his early success at the plate to a number of adjustments he made in the off-season.
“I’ve changed my approach. I was talking with a former teammate, David Feasler (’14) and we thought I should start looking for more pitches on the outside of the plate,” DeRaad said. “Last year I was a bit too aggressive, looking for mostly inside pitches, now I’m more patient.”
According to Occidental head coach Luke Wetmore, DeRaad was a blue-chip recruit who has been expected to succeed.
“Come watch practice. He has been routinely hitting balls over the clubhouse in center field,” Wetmore said. “His first day of batting practice the fall of his freshman year I started laughing. There are guys we’ve had in the past, and guys on this roster that can hit the long ball as frequently. But when Devon gets one… it stays hit.”
DeRaad feels confident in himself and his teammates going into the SCIAC opener this weekend against Chapman.
In the meantime, DeRaad, a biology major, will be helping in the Moore Lab of Zoology where he currently does research on the California Scrub Jay.
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