The Gift of Grab

Not much gets past Stephanie Mott.

Not tough subjects in class, not punch lines of jokes and especially not grounders.

In fact, most things just seem to come right to the South Kitsap senior.

“She’s every coaches’ dream,” South Kitsap fastpitch coach Kathy Ballew says of her star shortstop. “When (the ball) is hit there, you just know (it’s going to be an out).”

That’s something Ballew and her team have been used to for the past three years. But a new twist has been Mott’s performance at the plate this year, one of the reasons the Wolves are off to a 6-0 start this year.

Not much has ever gotten past Mott. It’s been that way for most of her life. She is a fourth-generation South Kitsapper and a proud member of Port Orchard’s Lyman clan.

“My whole family lives in Port Orchard,” Mott said. “We’ve been here forever, basically.”

And it seems she’s been scooping up grounders just as long, whether it’s for the Wolves or a club team, opposing teams have had little luck in getting a ball past her.

In fact, the slick-fielding Mott has not committed an error for South since she was a sophomore, the year she first started playing short.

“I feel like third is more my position,” she said. “The thing I like about third is that your reaction time has to be so much faster. Either you get it or you don’t, and you don’t have time to think about it. At shortstop, there’s a lot more thinking. With third its just habit.”

Ballew said having Mott switch positions was a no-brainer.

“We knew it when she came in as a sophomore,” Ballew said. “We knew we had our shortstop, even though she had never played that position before for any of her other teams.”

And the switch has worked to perfection — literally.

But it’s been at the plate this year that Mott has really taken off.

“Hitting has always been more of a struggle for me,” Mott said.

Although she says her sophomore season was a breakout year at the plate, Mott has been tearing up opposing pitching this year.

Through six games, she his hitting .529 with a double, two triples and a homer. She has also knocked in six runs, highlighted by a 4-for-4 performance last week against Shelton in which she hit two triples and an inside-the-park home run.

In fact, one of the triple was almost a homer as she was thrown out at the plate.

Ballew said she’s always had confidence in Mott as a hitter but what she did last week surprised everyone.

“Last year, it was just being consistent. You could count on a base hit,” Ballew said. “So far, with her power and hitting for that average through six games, I always had high hopes and expectations but I couldn’t have hoped for this.”

Ballew said there was a time during the Shelton game that the coaches thought about getting Mott to hit for the cycle (a single, double, triple and home run in one game) but decided against it and just let her go.

“The sound of it, I knew it was a great hit,” Ballew said of Mott’s first at bat. “And then she did it the next time, and the next time and I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ I couldn’t believe it, there she was going around again.”

The early success at the plate has been welcome, Mott said, and she’s hoping to hit at least .500 for the season. But it’s her defense that drives her.

“Since I always liked defense better. I’d always do that more,” Mott said. “It’s so much more natural. If I make a mistake on defense, I get really mad because I don’t normally do that. But I’ll still be confident because I know it was like a fluke deal.

“But if I have a bad day hitting, I’ll be more depressed,” Mott said. “I don’t have as much confidence in my hitting as I do in my defense.”

With Mott in the middle of South’s current hot streak, the leadership side has come out a bit, but not as much as Ballew would like.

“She leads by example, and she keeps doing what she’s doing, which has been her style all along,” Ballew said. “And that’s OK. She’s so quiet that if you didn’t know her you wouldn’t realize that she is very articulate. She’s going to go far.”

So the freshman who gave up soccer because she knew softball was her best chance to a ticket to college is close to punching that ticket. She has narrowed her choices down to Ryder University in Colorado or New York’s Fordham University.

But softball is very much in the picture, she said, at least for the next four years. After that, she said she will see where a possible degree in journalism or communications takes her.

Until then, she’s content to keep reeling in every grounder and line drive that comes her way and helping her team get back to the state playoffs.

“I want us to go farther than we have before,” Mott said. “We want to get back to state as a team.”

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