During her freshman season on the Bradley University softball team, Brittany Burgess had thoughts of becoming a left-handed slap hitter.
“Seeing the other slappers on the team, it was always in the back of my mind, ‘Why don’t I do this? Why don’t I use my speed to my advantage? I’ve done it in the past,’” the St. Bede Academy graduate said.
Early last summer, Burgess decided to go for it and switch from being a right-handed hitter to a left-handed slapper.
“I was like, ‘Why not give it a shot?’” Burgess said. “I struggled a little bit freshman year, so I figured I might as well give something a try.”
Burgess, who hit left-handed when she was younger but hit exclusively right-handed in high school, spent the summer working in her family’s batting cage to make the transition.
She worked both right-handed and left-handed until becoming comfortable from the left side again.
“There are still a lot of things I have to work on — I’m trying to work on placement and bunting so it drops right away — but for the most part it kind of came natural,” Burgess said. “I still have a lot to work on, but there are some things that are just muscle memory.”
Burgess did not play for a traveling team last summer, so she debuted her new approach for Bradley in February.
“I was nervous at first, but I felt comfortable from doing it in the past and working on it all summer,” Burgess said. “I just went out there and did what I had to do. There was no point in being nervous. I just needed to give it a shot.”
Bradley coach Amy Hayes was fine with the switch.
“She told me that I have to do what I have to do,” Burgess said. “(She told me) whatever I want as long as I can hit the ball and get on base, it’s up to me.”
Burgess has shown she can hit.
After going 1-for-14 last season, Burgess is fourth on the team with a .296 batting average.
Burgess, who has hit lead-off, second and last in the lineup, also is tied for fourth in runs with 13 and is 5-for-5 on stolen bases for the 13-11 Braves.
Burgess started the season 2-for-19 (.105) through nine games, but since then has gone 14-for-35 (.400), including an 8-for-11 (.727) at Tennessee State University’s Tiger Invitational that earned her a spot on the all-tournament team.
“It wasn’t awkward or anything,” Burgess said about the transition to hitting left-handed. “I’ve had some good tournaments and I’ve had some bad tournaments, but for the most part I’m happy I made the switch.”
Burgess also switched from third base in high school to right field for the Braves, but that was a fairly easy transition since she played outfield for the Midland Magic during her summers in high school.
Her switch to the left side and transition to the outfield helped Burgess earn a place in the starting lineup. She has started all 23 of the games in which she’s participated after playing in 28 of 51 games last year and starting just five.
“It was hard not playing so much freshman year. I was working my butt off to do whatever I could,” Burgess said. “Switching to the left side, and I was here (in Peoria) lifting with our strength and conditioning coach, I just worked hard to earn a spot.”
With Missouri Valley Conference play starting Saturday at Illinois State University, Burgess hopes to keep improving from the left side.
“I definitely want to keep my spot in the lineup and have more good games, but really (I want to) just work on the fundamentals of slapping and getting back into the groove of it,” she said.
Kevin Chlum is the NewsTribune Sports Editor. He can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com.