By the midway point of nonconference tournament play this season, junior outfielder Rebecca Blitz had become accustomed to hitting in the leadoff spot for IU softball.
Dating back to her freshman season in 2015, Blitz had hit leadoff for the Hoosiers in 105 out of a possible 124 games.
The start of her junior year brought struggles for Blitz, though. She recorded just 11 hits through the first 15 games of 2017.
Since batting first in the opening game of the Judi Garman Classic on March 3, Blitz has not hit in the lead-off spot for the last 13 games. Instead, she has made 11 consecutive starts hitting second for IU behind freshman utility player Gabbi Jenkins.
“I just have to be consistent and know I can do it,” Blitz said. “I proved myself in my freshman and sophomore years. It’s just getting on base so other people have an opportunity to get hits.”
Blitz thrived while serving as the team’s primary leadoff hitter during her first two seasons. She compiled batting averages of .345 and .350 while leading the team in hits and runs both years.
Her struggles coincided with a lack of runs for the Hoosiers, who averaged 3.07 runs per game when Blitz batted in the leadoff role.
“As a coach, you try to make things happen,” IU Coach Michelle Gardner said. “Sometimes you need to let things be, but sometimes you’re tinkering trying to make things happen.”
Gardner’s decision to alter the batting order has worked wonders for both Blitz and the IU offense.
Since the change, Blitz has batted .395 and scored 11 runs, while IU has averaged 5.54 runs over the last 14 games.
Jenkins has also benefited from the switch, earning a hit in eight consecutive games and raising her batting average by more than 100 points in the process.
Moving from leadoff to another spot in the order isn’t something new to Blitz, as she experienced the same thing her freshman year. A mid-season stretch saw Blitz replaced by then-freshman infielder Taylor Uden at the top of the Hoosier batting order.
This season, the decision to move Blitz’s batting spot allowed her to showcase new tools she developed during the offseason to reach base.
“I tried to figure out how I can use my speed more to my advantage,” Blitz said. “Playing more small-ball and working on chop-slapping and just figuring out ways to get on base.”
The wider variety of skills Blitz brings to the plate is something Gardner said she welcomes.
Sometimes it seemed like all Blitz did was hard-slap at the ball, Gardner said, but now she bunts more often, and Gardner said she’s noticed defenses playing in on Blitz more.
Despite the change, speed remains a constant of Blitz’s game.
She leads IU with eight stolen bases this season and has 52 in her college career.
“I’ve always been fast since I was young,” Blitz said. “If I can steal bases, it makes it easier on everyone else on the team.”
Being a three-year veteran of the team, Blitz isn’t fazed by these changes as IU starts conference play Friday night at home against Rutgers.
“There’s not really pressure,” Blitz said. “It’s just a game. You go out and play and do what you know how to do.”
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