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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

From deceived to deceptive

Karissa Buchanan was often stumped during her freshman campaign.

Putting too much pressure on herself to perform well didn’t mesh with facing some of the best pitching in the country. In 2009, the Pacific 10 Conference had soon-to-be NCAA Player of the Year Danielle Lawrie of Washington, as well as Missy Penna of Stanford and UCLA’s Megan Langenfeld, none of whom helped Buchanan get on track — she finished the season with a .266 batting average.

But after tweaking her game before and during her sophomore year, Buchanan has become the deceptive one.

“”She’s added a little wrinkle in her game that’s made her really effective,”” said assistant coach Larry Ray, whose specialty is slap-hitting. “”Everything is off her drag bunt.””

Buchanan, a speedy right fielder, isn’t nearly the power hitter who fills the rest of the Arizona line-up. Her specialty is slap-hitting, but adding a bunt that physically looks nearly identical creates confusion.

The opposing infielders don’t know whether a slap will produce a chopper over their heads or a bunt that dies in fair ground just feet away from home plate.

“”Everything looks identical, and it’s tough to tell,”” Ray said. “”We kind of looked and saw during competing against our team how effective it was. We always tell her, ‘If you can fool our defense, you can fool anybody.'””

Much of her success in compiling a .343 batting average in 2010 has also been due to her footwork.

“”I changed it up a bit,”” Buchanan said. “”Last year, my feet were going too fast, so I slowed down my feet. It makes me stay to the ball longer and try not to peel away to first base.””

Though she has yet to compile a double, triple or home run this season, Buchanan’s role becomes important at the bottom of the batting order. With her on base, lead-off hitter Brittany Lastrapes has the opportunity to drive Buchanan in — that extra run could be all the difference in postseason competition.

Facing Oregon State last weekend, head coach Mike Candrea credited Buchanan with getting a second-inning explosion started. After two walks, Buchanan squirted a run out of the infield, the first RBI of a nine-run inning.

Arizona would go on to win 20-1.

“”She’s having more big at-bats, but she’s still at a point where she’s giving away at-bats,”” Candrea said. “”You would hope as a nine-hitter with the speed that she has that she can find a way to identify pitches up and stay off of them, and find something down that she can pound on the ground.””

“”The ground is her best friend,”” he added. “”If she uses the ground, then she has a good chance to get on base.””

But Buchanan’s success hasn’t been only because of changes in technique.

As is the case for most freshmen, her confidence and comfort at the plate has equally helped her success.

“”I feel a lot more comfortable now, I feel comfortable with my teammates,”” she said. “”Being a freshman, it’s pretty stressful. I would always put too much pressure on myself.””

Part of what Candrea calls the “”process,”” usually in reference to the team, Buchanan is still going through an individual case of growth. Ray said that her maturity comes with age.

“”Each year, they kind of gain a little more confidence,”” he said of his players. “”They kind of have the feeling that they belong at this level.

“”Even with her, I’ve seen it mid-year. At the beginning of the year, she struggled,”” he added. “”Now, since we’ve kind of implemented (the bunts) as part of her weapons, she’s confident, and it’s been working. It’s great to get her on base.””

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