The Sophomore Jump

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GCU outfielder Rachel Hammons is ready to take her game to the next level

Chris Fahrendorf   College Times

When most people think of college athletes they think of the glitz, the glamor, the star athletes. What most people don’t think about are the players who have specific roles on the team. Enter Rachel Hammons.

Hammons is a sophomore outfielder on the Grand Canyon University softball team. After batting over .650 with over 45 steals a game in her four years at Bourgade Catholic High School, Hammons transitioned to more of a situational player her freshman year at GCU.

“Last year it was pretty much a role player. My main purpose was base running because I was fast,” Hammons says. “In key situations where we needed somebody to score, they would throw me in.”

Although this was a much different role then what she was used to in high school, Hammons adjusted fast. Last year Hammons appeared in 30 games tallying three at bats, six runs and two stolen bases. Because her role on the team was different from the starting outfielders, Hammons had to learn to prepare separately.

“I would do a lot more timing off of the pitchers. That’s what I would focus on when I was in the dugout,” Hammons says. “They’d (the starting outfielders) probably look at more how the pitcher was pitching. I would look at how she was pitching, her timing, the catcher’s arm and that kind of stuff. More focused on base running than hitting.”

Even though she came from a small high school, Hammons does not believe that set her back from making the jump to the collegiate ball. In reality, it was the Firecrackers AZ club team that prepared Hammons for the next level of play.

“I played on a really high-level club team, so the transition wasn’t that bad from that aspect. If I didn’t play club, the change would be massive,” Hammons says. “The pitching’s faster, the hitting’s faster, girls are bigger and stronger.”

Fast forward to 2020 and Hammons is ready to take a big step forward. Grand Canyon graduated two starting senior outfielders in Taylor Kaye and Maddie Dowdle and if her number is called, Hammons will be ready.

During her freshman year, Hammons was told by head coach Ann Pierson that if she wanted to get a bigger role on the team she should work on her hitting and fielding. That’s what Hammons did during the offseason.

“I did a lot of stuff over the summer, core exercises,” Hammons says. “All batting is a lot of core strength, so I’ve been doing a lot of that. I went to clinics every week over the summer after work to work on hitting with my hitting coach.”

It’s looking like Hammons will become a starter next season, however, she’s entering the season with tempered expectations.

“I don’t want to go in like, ‘I expect to play this much.’ I see myself kind of growing more this year, instead of just being (used) for base running,” Hammons says. “I want to help my team as much as I can. If I have to be a role player again, then that’s what I have to be.” CT

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