by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Along with being a dangerous leadoff batter and sure-handed center fielder, Kaitlyn Roche serves as a good example for the Elk River softball team.
Roche was a weak hitter in 10th grade (.130 average) when she started in right field on the Elks 2009 state championship team, getting DH’d for half the time. She improved last year with a .301 average and 12 RBI.
This spring, Roche is really locked in, hitting .546 (36-for-66), igniting the lineup from the leadoff spot. She has 12 doubles, a triple, 20 runs and 17 RBI.
“Kaitlyn got over .300 last year because she worked really hard on her hitting,” said coach Stacey Sheetz. “In the offseason she kept working, and it paid off big this year. She has a lot of confidence now.
“I can tell younger kids what can happen when you put in the work — look what it did for Kaitlyn.”
Roche, a 5-foot-3 righthander, said her improvement has been “mainly mental.”
“In 10th grade I struck out a lot,” she said, “and I beat myself up over it. I needed to be more confident at the plate. My junior year I told myself I am not going to keep striking out. I only had five strikeouts last year, and only three this year.”
She hits the ball hard for her size. Her third Dehit in Friday night’s 13-5 win over Osseo was a long oppositve-field triple that drove home two runs. She’s never hit a homer, though. “I’ve hit three right to the fence, but no homers,” she said. “I’d like to, but I’m satisfied with the way I’m hitting.”
Defensively, she has become “one of the best outfielders to come through Elk River,” said Sheetz, with good range, a strong arm, smart play and good communication and leadership. “We can always count on Kaitlyn to make the plays in outfield.”
Roche was one of the Star-Tribune athletes of the week two weeks ago when she had a 12-for-20 week with seven RBI.
“I have nominated girls before but Kaitlyn is the first one who ever got it,” said Sheetz.
Roche regards that selection as her second-best thrill so far. Number one by far was helping the Elks win that state title in 2009 when her sister Kelsey pitched two shutouts at state.
“Winning state and playing with my sister, too, that’s the main one,” she said.
Roche has become a smart hitter in another respect, too, said Sheetz. “As the leadoff hitter she takes the pitcher deep in the count, and lets the other girls see what the pitcher has,” said the coach.
Roche played basketball through 10th grade and volleyball through ninth, but has settled on softball as her lone varsity sport.
THE ROCHE SCORECARD
Personal file — Age: 18 … Family: parents Rick and Tina; sisters Kelsey, 20, and Kaylee, 14 … Sport: softball … Academics: 3.4 GPA … College plans: UM-Duluth … Career goal: Pharmacy
Favorite stuff — Class: math, and gym classes … TV show: “I don’t watch much.” … Movies: romantic stuff like The Noteook and A Walk to Remember … Food: “The Ceasar wraps and pizza where I work, Broadway Pizza” … Team: Twins … Athletes: Torii Hunter, Jenny Finch … Place she’d like to visit: Ireland