Kelsi Hilderbrandt is closing out her career at Northeastern State with a bang. The proof is in the statistics.
From the moment Hilderbrandt — a 5-foot-6 catcher from Broken Arrow — stepped on campus, she was thrust into the RiverHawks’ lineup. And she was the model of consistency during her freshman, sophomore and junior years.
She sported the same batting average (.276) during both her freshman and sophomore campaigns. She also had 45 and 46 total bases, respectively.
As a junior, she upped her average to .286, but her total bases and runs batted in dipped.
Then, in the fall of 2012, before Hilderbrandt was slated to begin her senior tour of duty, first-year coach Clay Davis — who took over for Dee Gerlach — had a heart-to-heart with Hilderbrandt about her approach in the batter’s box.
“In the fall, we saw some issues with her swing,” Davis said. “We really challenged her from the end of fall season up until the spring season to make some adjustments that she had not been normally accustomed to making, like learning to hit the ball the other way with power.
“And boy, she came back after Christmas break and really worked hard, and she’s made those adjustments for us.”
Again, the proof is in the numbers.
Hilderbrandt is NSU’s second-leading hitter with a .405 average, and if she continues the pace that she’s on, she will have set career marks in runs batted in, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and total bases.
She has also settled into the clean-up spot in the batting order after spending some time in the 8-hole early on this season.
“We had her hitting down in the 8-hole — in the second clean-up spot — so she could see some good pitches to hit down there,” Davis said. “Part of our mentality with her is to get her to be more aggressive, and we knew down in that part of the order, she’d get some good pitches to hit.”
To Hilderbrandt, hitting is hitting no matter where she’s penciled in on the lineup card.
“It is different down there,” said Hilderbrandt, who leads NSU in multi-hit games this season. “But then, you need people down there, too. But is different going from the middle to the end to the middle.”
Also boosting Hilderbrandt’s impact this season has been Crowder Community College transfer Navada Campos. The 5-foot-9 junior from Pryor has helped spell Hilderbrandt behind the plate, allowing Hilderbrandt to take a periodic breaks while still hitting in the designated-hitter spot.
“The past three years, I have pretty much caught everything,” Hilderbrandt said. “And with her coming in, it’s helped a lot.”
Davis said having two capable catchers is good problem to have.
“We have two quality catchers — well, really, three with Lindsea Ross in right field,” Davis said. “With Navada and Kelsi, they’re interchangeable behind the plate; they’re both really good defensively. They both brings different things to the table with the way they control games.”
Despite being a team leader, Hilderbrandt admitted she likes to keep quiet at one of the most vocal positions on the field.
“I am probably different than a lot of catchers out there,” Hilderbrandt said. “I don’t speak a lot or say much. Like Navada, she’s very vocal and I’m completely different. A lot of coaches might not like that, but I talk when I need to.”
If NSU goes 6-0 over the next three days, Hilderbrandt is likely to break her silence and do some rejoicing. Starting today, in a doubleheader against Washburn at RiverHawk Park, NSU begins a three-day stretch that includes doubleheaders against Emporia State on Saturday and Central Oklahoma on Sunday.
“Very important,” Hilderbrandt said. “...We need these wins. They’re very important.”
NSU will take on Washburn after not having played since April 5 when it swept Lincoln on the road. However, the RiverHawks (16-16) are sporting a six-game winning streak, which has them enjoying a 8-4 record in MIAA play and a fifth-place spot in the league standings.
“We just have to keep playing well,” said Davis, whose team has outscored opponents 49-5 over the past five games. “We’ll play 14 games over the next nine or 10 days, and it’s just a matter of keeping momentum in our clubhouse.”
MIAA glance (top 8)
Fort Hays State 13-1
Central Okla. 11-1
Emporia St. 13-3
Mo. Western 10-4
Northeastern St. 8-4
NW Mo. St. 7-7
Upcoming NSU games
April 12 - Washburn
April 13 - Emporia St.
April 14 - @ Central Okla.
April 16 - @ Bacone
April 18 - Neb. Kearney (at Bolivar, Mo.)
April 19 - @ Truman
April 20 - @ Lindenwood
* All matchups are doubleheaders