Burdette on a tear
The Minot State softball team has gotten off to a rocky start to the 2016 season.
The Beavers lost their first four Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference games – all at home – while combining to score just 10 runs during that stretch.
Junior second baseman Rachel Burdette – who drove in half of the runs scored in the first four conference games – is one of the few bright spots amid the early struggles.
“I feel like I’m seeing the ball pretty well right now,” she said. “I’m pretty confident. Assistant coach AJ Begay has been coaching me along the way and working with him has made me a lot better.”
Burdette is hitting a team-best .406 while driving in 13 runs to go alongside four doubles, three triples and two dingers.
“She’s got a great swing and her barrel stays in the bat path a long time and she knows how to hit,” MSU coach Bill Triplett said.
Last year Burdette batted fifth in the lineup behind all-conference seniors Ali Cygan and Melissa Bell. Burdette still hit .286 and registered nine homers, but this year she was been asked to do much more for Triplett and company.
“She’s adjusted very, very well,” Triplett said. “She’s made a great adjustment. She gotten a lot of hits and RBIs and she’s a tough out. It been an easy adjustment for her.”
Burdette is tasked with leading and producing offensively in a senior-less lineup.
“I think after losing Bell and Ali – they were are biggest assets – I felt I needed to step up,” Burdette said. “I have the pressure of being one of the oldest on the team, so I just thought I had to play the part.”
And while she might not be the most vocal of leaders, the underclassmen know quite well who’s in charge.
“She’s a silent leader,” Triplett said. “She leads by actions and she’s more of stern leader with the freshman. If you ask all the freshmen on our team who they’re most scared of on the team they will say Rachel.”
Leading by example and batting in the coveted third spot in the order are new roles Burdette’s had to learn.
But adjusting to a new role isn’t foreign to Burdette.
In fact, before she even played a game for Minot State she tackled perhaps the biggest hurdle to date.
Switching from the outfield to second base.
“Infield was intimidating to me,” Burdette said. “Outfield has always been my comfort zone. I came in my freshman year and Triplett put me at second base and at that point I didn’t care because I was playing college ball.”
And while she took her lumps – recording 15 errors as a freshman – she’s adapted and found a new comfort zone at second base.
However, every once in a while, some of those since buried fears about the infield linger back.
“Those ground balls,” she said. “I can’t say I’m very good with my hands all the time and when the ball is coming toward my face that kind of scared me. I like my teeth the way they are.”
And so far her teeth are all in order and accounted for and look to stay that way as Burdette leads the Beavers to a bright future.
“She’s a great person and great student,” Triplett said. “We are lucky to have her on our team.”
John Denega covers Minot High athletics, Minot State basketball and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @JohnDenega_MDN.