Switch to left side key for Arner
At the start of Rachel Arner’s freshman season, a change at the plate turned her in the right direction, leading to a very successful softball career that’s allowed her to recently achieve a milestone.
That direction, as it turns out, was switching to the left side of the plate. It was a move that the natural right-hander said was suggested by a former coach.
“She [Alexis Berg-Townsend] knew it would be best for me because of my speed,” said Arner.
That move allowed her to take advantage of a hitting style that she had utilized when she began playing softball. Once she moved back to the left side of the dish and started slapping the ball, that became the big difference maker.
Still, it took a period of adjustment for it to come together.
“I had to kind of learn the whole process over again, even though I did it when I was younger” said Arner.
With her ability to break out of the box while making contact, Arner’s speed puts constant pressure on the defense. It’s been a staple of her offensive game, and that’s produced a career in which she’s reached 100 hits.
As the milestone approached, Arner said that she was getting excited and nervous at the same time. It also helped that she was getting encouragement from the dugout.
“My team was supporting me through every single game,” she said.
Arner said that she’s glad that Berg-Townsend made the recommendation since it’s allowed her to use her speed to reach base. And it’s something that will open more doors when colleges come looking to offer scholarships.
“Just learning where to place the ball as a lefty has helped me learn so much more,” said Arner.
Opposing teams know that Arner’s looking to slap the ball. She said she’ll look at the defensive alignment when she steps into the box. She said she quickly has to assess where to best place the ball, and then use her speed to turn that placement into a hit.
It’s similar when she’s at the plate. She knows she needs to be selective to be successful in slapping the ball.
“I need to figure out which pitch is best for me,” said Arner. “I need to lay off the high pitches, definitely.
“So it’s just everything that comes to my mind, and what I have to think about, and then do my best.”
Arner reached base four times against Allentown Central Catholic on Saturday. One of those was a hit in the bottom of the third that was part of a four-run inning. She came home on Alexandra Cook’s double.
Those two hits were part of a 16-hit barrage as they defeated the Vikettes 15-0 in four innings.
Arner wound up with three hits in the game, while Meghan Hutter and Amanda Mortimer also had three hits and two RBIs.
Kendra Fox got the win for the Zephyrs, their 12th of the season.
Head coach Blake Morgan said that all year long that they’ve been able to hit the ball really well.
“Credit to the coaches, they’ve worked so hard,” said Morgan. “The kids buy in, make adjustments, so it’s been good.”
Arner, who reached base three times in their win against Bethlehem Catholic, said that while it’s a young team, a lot of those underclassmen have earned a lot of varsity experience since they were inserted in the lineup as freshmen last season.
“They’re becoming so good,” she said.
She said that it took awhile to figure out everyone’s playing style, and make some adjustments. But it’s starting to all come together.
With four games remaining in their season, all of which are against Skyline Division foes, Arner said that it boils down to fundamentals.
“We have to make the plays,” said Arner.
Their week starts with Nazareth, which sits at 12-4 as the week of April 28 begins. Parkland is atop the division at 15-1, while Northampton is second at 13-3. They also play Emmaus, which sits at 10-4.
Morgan said that they’re excited about the opportunity that lies ahead.
“We’re just going to take it one game at a time,” said Morgan.