When sophomore Kiwi McDaniel came up to pinch hit for left-fielder Kelli Bates in the bottom of the sixth inning Saturday, it was the definition of a high-pressure situation.
UConn hadn’t gotten anything going against Wichita State starting pitcher Brittney Lange all day.
The Huskies’ only two previous baserunners came from a consecutive walk and fielder’s’ choice in the fourth inning, but now they finally had something going.
Freshman Emma Stanley drew a walk and reached second on a single from Sam Barnett, and was replaced by speedy pinch-runner Hollis Wivell. Freshman Briana Marcelino then grounded into a fielder’s choice, so there were two women on base when head coach Jen McIntyre called McDaniel’s name.
McDaniel started the game on Friday and struck out all three times against Lange and was now called upon in a clutch situation, against the same pitcher, down 4-0 in one of UConn’s last chances to salvage something from the weekend, and she was as cool as the other side of the pillow.
“Coming back from struggling the last game, I was just gonna take my hacks,” McDaniel said after the game. “Today I knew she was gonna be coming at me with the change-up again so I just had to fight that off and wait for something hard that I could drive into the outfield”
She, however. didn’t hit anything in the outfield. The lefty fought off Lange’s change-ups that sunk her two days ago and pulled the first fastball she saw a mile high, up and over the right field wall, scoring UConn’s only three runs of the day.
Although it’s McDaniel’s second dinger of the season, she’s already had plenty of practice with her home run trot. McDaniel treats her homers like she would any other hit, taking off and running hard before she even sees that it’s gone.
“I told coach [McIntyre] that I’m going to have the fastest home run trot in the AAC,” McDaniel joked. “I don’t trot ever, I try to beat the girls to home plate but there was a runner in front of me, so I was kinda slower today.”
Luke Swanson is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.