The 2014 season has provided first baseman Kendra Sancet with new challenges and a redefined role as one of TWU’s top power hitters.
“Kendra is hitting the ball extremely well,” first-year TWU coach Genny Stidham said. “The problem with Kendra is that she probably didn’t get a lot of the respect from those pitchers last year. This year, when you come in and you’re leading your team in home runs, they are going to respect that, so they’re not going to pitch to her. She’s got to learn a different type of ball and learn to be more patient.”
Sancet has eight home runs after a three-run homer in an 11-run fourth inning that propelled TWU to a 14-2, five-inning victory over Texas A&M-Kingsville on Saturday at Pioneer Field, completing a three-game sweep to open Lone Star Conference play.
Starting out the game by reaching on a fielder’s choice and striking out, the junior knew she needed to show more patience at the plate.
“I got thrown outside pitches over and over again and I struggled the first two times at bat,” Sancet said. “The whole team adjusted in the fourth inning and we just lit her up. She knew I was struggling to hit that outside pitch, so I would keep throwing it to me, too.”
After Katie Hines’ two-run double gave the Pioneers a 2-0 lead in the first, a sacrifice fly by Amanda Ruiz made it 3-0.
Brandie Lander (13-0), who won Friday,’s opener, gave another complete-game performance in the finale.
The Javelinas (5-14, 0-3 Lone Star) got a scoring play against the Pioneers (17-3, 3-0) for just the second time in the series with Valerie Ramirez’s two-run homer in the fourth, closing to within 3-2, but Sancet and the Pioneers responded immediately.
The Pioneers’ offense, which had its first six batters each collect two hits in the game, sent 14 batters to the plate in the bottom of the fourth. Ruiz put the first dent in the Javelinas’ defensive armor with an RBI double.
In Sancet’s first of two plate appearances in the inning, she sent a two-run single to left field on a 3-1 count to extend the Pioneers’ lead to 6-2 and chase starting pitcher Carlie Clark in favor of Ariel Kellogg.
“She’s the head gal now, so they’re not going to pitch to her,” Stidham said. “She’s going to have to accept that responsibility and go after bad pitches. She has to accept that she’s going to get walked more, because Kendra wants to hit the ball.”
Alyssa Galaz’s RBI single to left, a frequent target for the Pioneers on Saturday, gave TWU a 7-2 lead. Tealey Farquhar made it 8-2 with her single to left, and Bailey Vrazel reached on an error that allowed Samantha Alegria and Katy Stephens to score.
After Sancet hit a two-run homer in Friday’s 11-0 nightcap, she cracked a three-run homer to left-center to put TWU ahead 14-2 and and finish the inning with five RBIs.
“I’ve been talking to the coaches a lot, and they’re just like, ‘You’re early or you’re leaning forward,’” Sancet said. “So I’m like, ‘OK, stay back,’ and each time I did I hit my home runs.”
Junior Sarah Wittenburg, who was leading TWU in batting average (.436) heading into Saturday’s game, was 2-for-3 while batting between the power-hitting Sancet and Hines.
“Sarah is basically a team leader,” Stidham said. “She has stepped up from day one when she knew that she was going to go back behind the plate. That’s kind of hard. You play right field one year and then second base, and the coach says now you’re behind the plate. She accepted the different role. We told her that she would be the gap hitter and a power hitter. She’s done everything I’ve asked since the day I got here.”
The Pioneers now will head to San Angelo to face Angelo State for a three-game series beginning Friday.
“It’s great,” Sancet said. “We need a sweep, because in this conference, you need every one you can get with WT [West Texas A&M] and everyone else who’s a great team. To get a sweep is great to start off the LSC season.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873.