Hitting, according to Kennedy Brown, is all about timing.
The Regina junior found the perfect time to start hitting like she never has before.
Brown is hitting nearly .600 over the last two weeks and brings an 18-game hitting streak into Friday’s Class 2A Region 6 semifinal against ninth-ranked Wapello.
Led by the hot-hitting Brown, resurgent Regina (21-14) has won 12 of its last 16 games and is eying a return to the state tournament after missing out last season.
“It’s all timing, lately that’s all I’ve been doing is working on timing and I knew the results would come when the timing was there,” Brown said. “It has just started to come around and our team all together is doing a really great job.”
Hitting, even at a high level, is certainly not new for Brown.
Already a three-year starter, the junior owns a career .384 batting average and led Regina with six home runs last season as a sophomore.
Still, what Brown has done in 18 games over the past 19 days is new territory for her.
During her current 18-game hitting streak Brown is hitting .579 (33-for-57) with 11 home runs, including two grand slams, and 35 RBI.
“I’ve never had a stretch like this, it’s been really fun,” Brown said. “I knew I could hit but I didn’t know I would come out and perform like this. I think my technique has gotten better and I think a lot of it is just mental. A lot of it is just focusing.”
The recent hot streak has raised Brown’s season batting average from .317 to a career-best .469 following Wednesday’s 10-0 regional quarterfinal win over Columbus.
Brown leads Regina in runs (40), RBI (41), doubles (11) and ranks eighth in the state and second in Class 2A with 12 home runs on the season.
Her 12 home runs broke the Regina school record for homers in a season set by Julia Hunter in 2011 and her .949 slugging percentage is another career-best.
Brown has done that while cutting her strikeouts in half, from 13 last year to six this season.
“She has tremendous bat speed,” Regina coach Jon Prottsman said. “You watch her in practice she doesn’t appear to swing that fast but yet when she makes contact, even in the cage, the ball just jumps off her bat.”
Brown’s scorching two-week stretch came after she was mired in a rare slump.
After hitting safely in seven of her first nine at-bats to start the season, Brown managed just six hits in her next 32 trips to the plate.
“I think it was a case where earlier she was in too big of a hurry,” Prottsman said. “She would attack the ball when it wasn’t quite there yet and she was anxious. She’s slowed down a little and has come back and been really good.”
A starter and all-tournament team selection on the Regals’ state semifinal soccer team, softball didn’t get Brown’s undivided attention until midway through June.
Even then it took Brown some time, and lots and lots of hitting, to get her timing and technique back.
“I had to get back into it after soccer,” Brown said. “I did a lot of hitting out of practice, I would come down here with my mom and a couple of teammates for a couple of hours in the mornings.”
Brown’s hitting streak started slowly with a single in two at-bats against Waterloo East on June 20.
She hasn’t slowed since.
Brown has 10 multi-hit games during her hitting streak and at one point had at least two hits in 9 out of 10 games.
“I think my confidence has gone up definitely,” Brown said. “I mean, I’ve batted forever, since I was little, so I just had to get back to what I was doing and get my confidence back.”
The most impressive part of Brown’s recent stretch has been her surge in power.
She entered the season with 14 career home runs and homered once during her first 43 at-bats this season
Since then, Brown has 11 home runs in her past 55 trips to the plate.
“She is at a clip where she is hitting a home run every two games and she had one in the first 17 games,” Prottsman said. “She has picked it up like she should.”
For her career, Brown is averaging a home run every 15 at-bats.
This season she is averaging a home run every eight trips to the plate and during her hitting streak Brown has homered once every 5.2 at-bats.
“I’m not like a big, huge home-run hitter, it’s really hard to explain,” Brown said. “They just kind of happen. I’m just thinking about contact but when I hit one I can feel it that it’s going to go.”
The versatile Brown is the key cog in the Regina offense.
Brown is the only player in the state this season with double-digit home runs (12) and more than 20 stoles bases (23), and during her hitting streak Regina is averaging 6.7 runs per game.
The Regals averaged 5.11 runs per game during their 9-8 start before Brown’s outburst.
“The whole team has been hitting a lot more in practice and everybody is getting there and we know we can do it and that helps,” Brown said. “The hitting has been coming together.”
Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @rmmurken.
• Grade: Junior
• Position: Shortstop
• Batting Average: .469
• Slugging Percentage: .949
• Home Runs: 12
• Doubles: 11
• RBI: 41
• Runs: 40
• Stolen Bases: 23