UPDATE: With Auburn in the 2016 Women’s College World Series, this post has been very popular the past few weeks. Here is an update on arguably the best all-around college softball player in the country–Kasey Cooper.
Kasey is enjoying another record-breaking season. She is the 2016 SEC Player of the Year, the Scholar Athlete of the Year, a First Team All-American for the second consecutive year, and a finalist for National Plyer of the Year. Kasey was also named the ELITE 90 award winner. The ELITE 90 award honors the individual who has participated at the national championship level, while also achieving the highest cumulative GPA among her peers.
Going into the championship game tonight, here are Kasey’s record-breaking offensive stats for 2016:
* Batting Average: .424
* Doubles: 19
* Home Runs: 21
* RBIs: 83
* Slugging %: .880
Kasey continues to be a leader on and off the field. Through her dedication to her Auburn teammates and her hard work in the classroom, she is one of the top student athletes in the country. She is also a great role model for all the young softball players who watch how she plays the Game.
Original Post in June of 2015
The NCAA women’s college softball playoffs are always a showcase for a national television audience to see some of the best hitters in the country. This year, as soon as I saw Kasey Cooper of Auburn University hit, I knew I needed to review her hitting mechanics on this blog. In 2015, Kasey was recognized as a First Team All-American and also a First Team Member of the Capital One Academic All-American Team. Kasey was one of the top power hitters in a very talented Auburn lineup this past season. Here are Kasey’s 2015 statistics:
* Batting Average: .391
* Doubles: 14
* Home Runs: 18
* RBIs: 64
* Slugging %: .745
Before I explain why Kasey Cooper has such a powerful swing, enjoy this video of her rocket double off of the National Player of the Year, Lauren Haeger.
Kasey’s success is due to the common traits she shares with other great hitters, like Alex Hugo of the University of Georgia, who I profiled last year at this time. For me, it all begins with the proper hand/bat position and a powerful “load”. The picture below clearly illustrates the real source of Kasey’s power.
I know many people in the softball community are likely puzzled and even appalled by Kasey’s high leg lift. I have taken abuse for years from people who are close-minded to the benefits of a slow and powerful leg lift. The purpose of lifting the front leg is to shift and stack a hitter’s weight on the back leg and foot. Great hitters use this weight stack as a launching pad for the powerful rotation of the lower body, followed by the violent rotation of the upper body. At 5′ 4″, Kasey knows that stacking as much weight as possible during the “load” phase of the swing is one of the main reasons she has hit so many doubles and home runs over the past two years.
A less obvious benefit of lifting the front leg is Kasey is able to drive inside and outside pitches more consistently and with more power. She is able to make slight adjustments (toward or away from the plate) before placing the front foot back down in the batter’s box. Hitters who don’t lift their front leg have to reach for pitches on the outer portion of the plate and are often jammed by inside pitches. Kasey’s leg lift enables her to hit any pitch harder than hitters who are flat-footed.
Kasey also has the ideal 45 degree bat angle at set up, with her hands away from her body and back toward the catcher. If you watch the video closely, you will see how she keeps her hands back, and her bat in this perfect “attack” position as long as possible. The longer she holds this attack position, the more tension or torque that will build as her lower body rotates. As you can see, when Kasey’s upper body ultimately begins to rotate violently, her hands have enough “runway” to travel in order to maximize her hand speed and bat speed.
Here are links to previous posts I have written on these topics:
Hand Position: http://torque-hitting.com/2013/06/21/the-calm-before-the-lightning/
Ideal Bat Angle: http://torque-hitting.com/2013/07/12/whats-your-angle/
Loading Powerfully: http://torque-hitting.com/2013/07/02/is-your-hitting-stuck-in-the-mud
The next part of Kasey’s swing is my favorite…..her great extension! In addition to the criticism I receive for advocating a powerful load (front leg lift), some old school softball people also challenge my assertion that the best hitters achieve full extension at or immediately after impact with the ball. Old school softball hitting theory teaches hitters that bat lag is actually good. Others profess that the arms should form a “box” at impact. I have never been able to understand the benefit of teaching this awkward and weak arm position. I have analyzed the swings of hundreds of great baseball and softball power hitters over the years. The one thing they ALL have in common is great extension at impact.
Take a look at the two pictures below. The first picture (left) shows Kasey’s arms at the moment of impact and the second picture (right) shows her arms fully extended. The time-lapse between these two pictures is only two tenths of a second. This clearly illustrates that her bat lag at impact is negligible. At this point in her swing, Kasey puts a charge into the ball like a bolt of lightning.
Here is a previous post on the importance of FULL EXTENSION: http://torque-hitting.com/2013/12/21/yes-full-extension/
Another trait of a great hitter is using leverage to drive the ball with power. The red line on the picture below illustrates the angle of Kasey’s body as she swings. Just by looking at this picture, you can almost feel the power in her swing. Kasey is in a textbook power position, including a stiff front leg that serves as a barrier to capture the kinetic energy she has generated from the initiation of the swing up to this point.. For more information on the importance of leverage, here is a link to a previous post.
The good news for college softball fans is Kasey Cooper has two more years of eligibility. Check your television listings next season or watch her hit online. Watching Kasey hit is definitely “Must See TV”.