Mallory McKee wasn't initially enamored about being a leadoff hitter until she realized the prospects of extra plate appearances.
Chesterton softball coach LouAnn Hopson was looking for more consistency at leadoff, so she moved the junior there during the Horseshoe Classic at Pendleton Heights on April 6. McKee had three hits each in two games. Three days later, she led off against Portage with a home run.
McKee is hitting .429 with three home runs and 28 RBIs on the season. She has a .604 slugging percentage and .538 on-base percentage. All of those numbers are higher than last season, when the Trojans advanced to the Class 4A semistate.
"Ninety percent of the time, Mallory is not going to strike out," Hopson said. "She will put the ball in play ... that's all you can ask for with your leadoff hitter. Any bonuses we get with a little bit of power is great."
McKee has made some adjustments, but her overall strategy is the same.
"I don't swing at bad pitches," she said. "I try to swing at the first couple of strikes, so I don't fall behind.
"There isn't anyone in front of me now to see how the pitcher throws. You have to figure that out yourself and try to inform your teammates."
McKee also helps her teammates with the glove at first base.
"Mallory does a great job of digging throws out of the dirt," Hopson said. "She's saved our infielders a lot of errors."
McKee saved the team's postseason a year ago, driving in the game-winning runs on a two-out, two-run single in the seventh inning of the sectional championship against Crown Point.
"Anytime a kid succeeds with their glove, pitching or hitting in big game or highly-pressured situation, it just makes you stronger the next time that situation comes around," Hopson said. "Mallory was a good hitter last year. She focused this summer on hitting, and she's a more confident hitter now."
The Trojans and Bulldogs will meet in the postseason again, this time at 6:30 p.m. Monday in the opening round of the Class 4A Crown Point Sectional. McKee hasn't forgotten her key hit, but she remains focused on the task at hand.
"Just because I had that one hit doesn't make me think I am amazing or like an all-star," McKee said. "I still had to work hard and keep practicing. One hit wasn't going to make me stand out this season.
"I'm really excited about this year. I don't think about the past. I have to concentrate on (Crown Point) now."