Haupert hammering home runs for Wildcats

Kelsey Haupert doesn’t swing for home runs when she’s at bat.

But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t hit them.

With 17 games to go, Haupert, an all-league player at Black Hills High, is two home runs short of the Central Washington University and Great Northwest Athletic Conference single-season record. She leads the conference in home runs (12) and RBI (45).

“She doesn’t swing for the fences,” Central coach Gary Frederick said. “But she hits the ball hard whether it’s a home run or a single.”

Haupert transferred to Central after playing two seasons at Purdue, where she hit over .300 and had 16 homers.

“We knew what we had when she got here,” Frederick said. “She’s a nice pickup for sure.”

Haupert has lived up to expectations. Her RBI total already is a CWU record and she ranks seventh nationally in RBI per game, averaging 1.36. She went 6-for-10 and drove in nine runs to help the Wildcats win three of four from Saint Martin’s over the weekend.

Against the Saints on Sunday, Haupert, a junior who plays third and first bases, broke Central’s school single-season record for RBI with three-run home run in the fifth inning that put the Wildcats ahead for good in a 7-5 victory in the first game of a doubleheader.

And with her knack for belting home runs no longer a secret, teams have started taking the bat out of her hands – Haupert was walked four times in two wins against Saint Martin’s on Sunday.

“Her reputation for hitting home runs is growing,” Frederick said.

Haupert ended up at Central in part because of the Wildcats’ Black Hills connection. Elena Carter is a freshman catcher who played at Black Hills. Holly Rossman, who led Central in hitting last season and has graduated, is also a Black Hills grad.

“It’s the Black Hills connection,” Frederick said.

Frederick first met Haupert at a Saint Martin’s game last year. He introduced himself, and Carter and Rossman then sold Haupert on the school and the team.

“She liked what she heard,” said Frederick, who picked up his 300th win as Central’s fastpitch coach over the weekend.

Despite being a long-ball hitter, Haupert isn’t susceptible to strikeouts. She has struck out nine times, fifth fewest on the team. She has 19 walks, most on the team. After batting over .500 over the weekend, Haupert is hitting .357, going 35-for-98.

Haupert is a big reason why Central is in first place in the GNAC at 22-11.

When you’re hot, you’re hot

It was almost as if Josh Grenier couldn’t make an out.

The Saint Martin’s third baseman went 11-for-14 in a four-game sweep of Montana State Billings over the weekend, raising his batting average to .350.

“Josh has had some streaks this season,” Saint Martin’s coach Ken Garland said. “He seems to be back on track. It’s just more of a mental thing.”

Rather than pulling the ball, Grenier, an all-league player at Tumwater High, is spraying the ball to all fields.

“He’s getting back to what he does well,” Garland said.

And Saint Martin’s is trying to get healthy. Right fielder Aaron Johnson and infielder Travis Jones have been out with hand injuries, Shortstop Cody Brooks tweaked his shoulder sliding into home.

After outscoring Montana State Billings, 41-24, over the weekend, the Saints dropped a doubleheader to Western Oregon on Tuesday, losing 16-6 and 4-1.

Western Oregon extended its win streak to 12 games and widened its first-place lead.

“In Montana, everyone contributed,” Garland said. “We’re just trying to stay focused.”

Helping hand for Huskies

Taylor Smith is making a significant contribution to the defending NCAA champion Washington Huskies’ return to the softball playoffs.

Smith, a sophomore at UW after being an all-league player at Timberline High, is batting .294. She has played 18 games, starting 10. She’s also showing some power with five homers, third most on the team. Five of her 10 hits are home runs. She’s 10-for-38, with three doubles, 15 RBI, 11 strikeouts and four walks.

Last year as a freshman, Smith hit two pinch-hit home runs. She homered in her first at-bat with the Huskies.

Gail Wood: 360-754-5443