Karessa “Bug” Sweeney made an adjustment in the batter’s box near the end of the regular season, and that change sparked the junior’s offense and helped fuel Wheeler’s run to the Class 2A regional title.
Sweeney, who was batting around the .100-mark for portions of the season, went back to a process she had used earlier in her career called “slugging.” When slugging, she squares around as though to bunt before pulling the bat back to get into hitting position.
“It’s pretty much a right-handed slap,” Sweeney said. “It helps me to hit the ball better. I was dipping my shoulder. I tried a lot of stuff in the cage nothing really worked.”
Since she made the adjustment, Sweeney has raised her batting average to .292 from .240 at the end of the regular season. She is 7-for-14 with a home run and six RBIs in the postseason.
“It allows her to keep her head locked in and see the pitch with both eyes,” Wheeler coach Marc Bruner said. “It has paid off for her.”
In the regional championship at Winamac, Sweeney had three hits, including a two-run home run. She finished Wheeler’s 10-0 win with three hits, three RBIs and three runs.
“It’s the middle of the order pop now that we are really starting to get,” Bruner said. “Angelise Vukan is our No. 4 hitter, Bug’s our No. 5 and Kayla Aytes is our No. 6 hitter. The three of them have really stepped it up here in the postseason.”
Sweeney delivered the game-winning single in the seventh inning of Wheeler’s 2-1 victory over Whiting in the sectional championship game.
Not only did Sweeney make a change at the plate, but she also changed positions in the field during the season.
After starting the year at shortstop, Sweeney swapped positions with Kylie Horn near the end of the regular season and moved to second base.
“We made the switch in the middle of the Boone Grove game, and we haven’t looked back since,” Bruner said. “It’s that kind of maturity out of a kid that we really think is valuable. She has a great attitude about everything all the time.
“I think we could put her at any spot and she would flourish because she’s just a softball player.”
Bruner said the Wheeler defense has seemed more comfortable since the switch happened.
“I was a little iffy about it at first, but it helped the team a lot and I like it,” Sweeney said.