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Senior Spotlight: Hammerin' 'Hit'ney

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Vandalia's slugging senior Whitney Newsom brings confidence to final season

By Andrew Harner

There is a certain confidence in Whitney Newsom’s eyes every time she steps up to the plate for the Lady Vandals.

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The slugging senior has been playing softball with regularity since she was 5 or 6 years old, and has always focused on one piece of advice while waiting for every pitch.

“My dad always told, “See ball. Hit ball,” she said. “‘You make sure it’s your pitch, and that there’s something you can do with it.’”

Newsom has proven that lesson over and over again.

Last season, her plate discipline allowed her to lead the Lady Vandals in several offensive categories, including on-base percentage (.432), batting average (.383), slugging percentage (.667), home runs (five) and runs batted in (24).

She also plays sharp defense at third and keeps up the infield chatter before almost every pitch.

“She is always thinking,” said coach Brian Buscher. “Whitney is very sharp and knows exactly what is going on in the game. Her softball IQ is up there.”

Against Effingham on Tuesday, Newsom came to the plate in the sixth inning with runners on base and the Lady Vandals trailing.

She had been 1-for-2 until that point, with a strikeout and a single, and she knew that making contact was imperative in her at-bat, because even a flyball or a groundball would give the runner on third a chance to score.

“I was thinking, ‘Just get a hit and make solid contact and the rest will fall in place,’” Newsom said.

She did just that, and after the third baseman wildly overthrew the first baseman, Newsom found herself on second, and the Lady Vandals found themselves down, 5-3.

Newsom would later score on an error to make it a one-run game.

It’s those at-bats, however, that make her a valuable leader, and Newsom has willingly taken on that role, even though it has been a bit difficult for her sometimes.

“It can be stressful at times, but I feel that I had to fill in some big shoes,” Newsom said. “The seniors before me were very dedicated also, so filling in those big shoes was a very hard task.”

One reason may be that team leaders are expected to get after a teammate if they aren’t doing what they are supposed to, but, as Buscher says, Newsom does not have a “mean bone in her body,” so it’s hard to imagine her getting in someone’s face on the bench.

But her teammates do respect her and her work ethic, and likely would take anything she said with 100-percent seriousness.

“She has been vocal at practice and vocal in games,” Buscher said. “The other girls respect her because of all the little things she does.”

He said Newsom is usually the first one to practice and the last one to pick things up after practice. She was always one of the first to inquire about summer softball and willing to take swings in the practice shed during winter.

The little things in her game may help lead her to another two or four years of softball at the collegiate level.
Newsom said she has been looking into playing at Greenville College, while pursuing a degree in dentistry.

Neither of those choices are the easiest ones a person could make, but Buscher would expect nothing less from his dedicated senior.

“Whether she plays softball or not, she’s going to do some great things,” he said.