The Elon University softball team is filled with quality hitters up and down its lineup, with six starters batting .300 or better and three more slugging .500 or higher.
But Elon’s typical second and third batters in the lineup — junior outfielder Alaina Hall and sophomore outfielder Kara Shutt — have stood out with their bats and gloves. And they’ve tried to one-up each other the whole time.
Both are left-handed hitters who not only hit for power, but also have the ability to slap. When they step into the batter’s box, opposing pitchers have to be careful in choosing how to pitch to them.
“I prefer to hit, just because I haven’t slapped for that long,” Shutt said. “But I’m working back into the slapping game, because if I can get that down, that will help my game.”
Hall added, “I look at the field and read what they are giving me. I decide to bunt if they are back and slap if they are close.”
Head coach Kathy Bocock likes the fact that both Hall and Shutt are capable of hitting for power and slapping the ball, which she’s seen each do in practice.
“The two of them can offset [each other] whenever they need to,” Bocock said. “It’s good stuff for those two.”
So far this season Hall is currently batting .315 with 23 hits, 17 runs, 12 RBI and two home runs. While the 2015 Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) All-CAA Second Team honoree has struggled recently, her role in the two-spot as a speedy lefty is to put the ball in play and force the defense to make plays.
Shutt then steps in and tries to bring the runners in as the third hitter. Teams typically place their best hitter in the three-spot, and Shutt welcomes the weight that comes with her spot in the lineup.
“I do like the pressure,” Shutt said. “I know my one and two batters are going to do their job to get on and it’s my job to score them. I’m just grateful I get the opportunity to do that.”
She’s done just that so far, batting .446 with 33 hits, 10 doubles, three triples, 18 runs and 16 RBI. She was named the CAA Player of the Week Feb. 16 and was on the All-Freshman team last year.
Shutt typically plays centerfield and Hall starts at a corner outfield spot, and each play exemplary defense — Shutt’s .976 fielding percentage leads the team with Hall not far behind at .962. Hall isn’t afraid to acknowledge that there is some banter between the two.
“Friendly competition? Yeah, its definitely there,” Hall said. “We push each other to be better. I think if you didn’t have someone right there to push you, then we would be complacent. I think it’s a good thing we have a friendly competition.”
But don’t mistake the competitive nature between the two as something that causes issues. The two are good friends, both on the field and off.
“We are pretty close — outside of softball we go to Crazy Fire,” Hall said. “But when I am struggling, I will ask her what I’m doing wrong.Because we do do so many similar things, I’ll ask her what she thinks I’m doing.”
The constructive criticism between the two will be key as Elon gets ready for conference play.