HOBART | The best way for a young athlete to endear themselves to a coach is to never make a mistake.
Whether it’s a football player not fumbling or lining up out of position, or basketball players not turning the ball over, or golfers making short putts, if you do your job on the court or field, coaches will love you.
So it’s understandable that Hobart softball coach Katrina Lucas has a huge fondness for her right fielder, Brianna Kraft.
It’s unusual that Kraft, a senior leader, plays a position like right field, which seems unimportant. But softball’s a little different than baseball with more balls finding their way to the right side of the field.
And when the ball makes its way toward Kraft, it’s never mishandled.
“She hasn’t had an error this season or all of last season,” said Lucas, looking at the stats on her computer tablet that proved her point.
Kraft has been playing the outfield since her sophomore year after previously playing second base. Her last error came in the final game of the 2012 campaign before being perfect last season.
“I’m never scared when the ball is headed her way,” Lucas said. “As far as judging the ball off the bat, she’s amazing.”
Most kids would rather play infield than outfield, but Kraft chose to switch after her freshman season.
“I thought outfield had more action, and I like making big catches,” she said.
But there’s more to Kraft than just flawless fielding. She came into the week leading Hobart in hitting with a .440 batting average, and 11 RBIs and a .481 on-base percentage. Why is the OBP only slightly higher than the batting average?
“She doesn’t walk much, but she hits almost everything,” Lucas said.
Ironically, Kraft did walk on Thursday in a loss to a tough Wheeler squad, but that was against one of the best pitchers in the area in Nickole Finch, so taking a walk is smart, even if it goes against her mentality.
“We want big hits and as many bases as we can get,” said Kraft, who had three doubles and a home run before this week.
Her fielding and hitting makes it easy for Kraft to be “a leader by example” as Lucas said. But it’s simpler than that. Her example could be followed in all aspects of life.
“I just want to do my job and do it right,” Kraft said. “I take pride in having no errors.”
Lucas said she would take eight other Brianna Krafts on the field against any other team in the state.
“She’s a quiet leader, but she’s always working her butt off at practice, great in the classroom, a model citizen away from school and she never gets down on herself or the team,” Lucas said.
Despite her offensive and defensive stats, Kraft carries her leadership over the goal-setting. Not making errors can only help the team, and that’s all that matters to her.
“Really, the only goal I care about is to win our sectional and/or conference,” she said. “Either would be a huge accomplishment.”
The last time the Brickies won a softball sectional title was 1988, and after getting so close last year (losing to eventual state champion Portage, 6-5, in the sectional final), nothing less than a trophy will do. In fact, Kraft wants to erase a lasting memory from that Portage game.
“I made the last out on a fly ball caught at the wall,” she recalled. “We were so close.”