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DeLeon gets black and blue for Red and White

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As a shortstop for CB South, Alex DeLeon always brought energy and communication.

“Alex is very vocal and I think that was most impressive coming in as a freshman,” noted Youngstown State coach Brian Campbell. “Usually (freshman) take a step back and want to learn. I thought that was one area where Alex took off running.”

“Growing up, I’ve always been a leader on the field. That is how I see myself,” DeLeon added. “I’m always one of the girls who communicated and talked to my teammates. When the girls were communicating back to me, I knew they had my back as much as I had theirs. That helped my adjustment to Division I softball.”

Two things translated immediately into DeLeon’s jump from the SOL to Division I: her vocal leadership and her penchant for getting on base. DeLeon started every game for Youngstown State. Her .447 on-base percentage led the Penguins and ranked sixth in the Horizon League.

“When I first got to Youngstown State, I was somewhat nervous during our outdoor workouts. The pitching in Division I is completely different than anything we had ever seen,” DeLeon admitted. “They throw much harder. They spin the ball a lot more.”

With the help of some upperclassmen, DeLeon put in the work over the cold winter. It made her feel adjusted when the season came around.

“Her on base percentage was very good as far as getting hit or walking or singling,” Campbell offered. “However she was able to get on base to set up the top of the order, she did her job.”

DeLeon constantly repeated a phrase this spring. The phrase was “Ouch!” DeLeon was hit by a pitch 15 times, by far the most in the Horizon League. Her combo of 38 walks and hits-by-pitch were second in the Horizon.

“I always knew I wasn’t going to be the most powerful hitter,” described DeLeon, who is listed at 5 feet 2 inches. “I try to be a coachable hitter, because coaches want to see student-athletes take what they say into consideration. Over winter practices, I really focused on my strike zone. I have a smaller strike zone than most of the other girls on the team.”

DeLeon taught herself to sit on a pitcher’s best pitch and take secondary pitches that might be outside the strike zone. “If I saw that my hitters in front of me were getting a lot of balls, I’d be looking to see if she could throw me a first pitch strike, or I would make her work to get ahead of me in the count,” DeLeon continued. “A lot of that confidence comes from knowing that I have to get on base because the hitters behind me will be able to score me.”

As DeLeon matured as a player, she reached base more with hits and less with walks. Starting with a double in the nightcap of a March 23 conference doubleheader with Oakland, DeLeon hit .293 in Y-State’s final 31 games. The Penguins finished in the Horizon’s top three for the fourth straight spring.

“She became a very disciplined hitter staying inside that box,” Campbell praised. “I’ve had players over the years who want to make something happen so badly that they start trying to play above and beyond what they should be doing. Alex realized when she stays in the smaller box at the plate, and swings in that strike zone at the plate, it’s going to help her as a player.”

DeLeon won a district title at South. She was one of three Titan alumnae to get quality Division I playing time this spring. “I think it has to do with the chemistry that the team has, especially with the varsity. Everyone wants to see each other succeed but everyone also wants to see themselves succeed,” DeLeon said. “I remember when I was a freshman looking up at seniors Maddie Decker and Hope Darreff.”

Having upperclassmen succeed, like UMaine’s Decker, gives underclassmen teammates to model. The cycle repeats.

DeLeon has three more seasons at Y-State. An education major, she was inspired by CB South math teacher and swim coach Jeff Lake. “I want to live the life that he is living,” DeLeon mused. “I want to teach kids and I want to be there for my students, but I also want coaching to be there for me. I love the game of softball.”


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