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State’s home run records shatter as batters shoot for the fences

By: Tom Markowski, June 5, 2018, 6:49 pm

Lydia Goble of Schoolcraft had hit 11 home runs through May 11 when the senior shortstop went on a tear no one could predict.

She homered in 11 consecutive games including three against Lawton to increase her total to 25 and is currently the state’s record-holder for most home runs hit in a season. The previous record was set last season by Taylor Dew of Muskegon Mona Shores and Brooke Nadolny of Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse, each hit 22. Nadolny has hit 24 this season; Dew 14.  

But Goble would be advised not to rest on her laurels. She soon could have company.

The pace at which home runs are being hit is at an all-time high. Prior to 2012 only one player, Melinda Van Gillis of Pentwater, had hit 18 home runs in a season. Since then 11 players have hit 18 or more, and two have accomplished this feat twice.

One is Julia Kennedy, a senior infielder from Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard. Kennedy hit 18 in 2016 and has 22 this season. Her 55 career home runs is a state record but, like Goble, Kennedy could soon have company.

Nadolny is poised to surpass Kennedy, if not this season, surely in 2019. Of the four players mentioned, Nadolny is the only junior. The others are seniors. She is tied with Dew for second place in career home runs with 52. Goble has 48 and is in a three-way tie for sixth. (Note: Erika Underwood, 2012-15, of Addison and Taylor Johnson, 2007-10, of Belding hit 49 home runs and are tied for fourth). And all four will play at least one more game this season as each of their respective teams won district titles last weekend and have advanced to Saturday’s regionals.

Goble, who signed with Grand Valley State to play softball, is a two-sport athlete who helped Schoolcraft’s basketball reach a Class C quarterfinal before losing to eventual champion Ypsilanti Arbor Prep, 61-55. She scored 1,013 points in her career, 493 her senior season. Her father, Jim Goble, is her softball coach and he said Lydia is not your typical home run hitter. Goble hit six home runs last season after hitting 12 as a sophomore. Her father said it’s difficult to explain why or how his daughter would increase her home run total by 19 in one season.

“Her mechanics are good and she’s making great eye contact,” Jim Goble said. “She’s hitting leadoff because she’s our best hitter (.558). She hit a lot of triples last season and she hasn’t hit any this season. She’s working all the time on her hitting. (Hitting home runs) wasn’t a goal of hers. The whole thing is interesting. We talked about the home runs. But when that becomes the goal, that just adds pressure.”

Kennedy is another two-sport athlete who signed with Miami (OH) to play softball. After hitting 18 home runs two years ago she hit just seven last season. What might have held her back was the fact that she played soccer last season. That fact that soccer and softball are both spring sports forced Kennedy to continually juggle her schedule.

“She had such a great sophomore season,” her softball coach Nicole Henderson said. “Her junior year was OK. Did playing soccer hurt her? I would say so. She would go to soccer practice after a (softball) game and she’d be rushing to get there. It was more than just that. You know here some kids have senioritis. I think she had that her junior year.”

Henderson said Kennedy is not your typical power hitter and that many if not most of her home runs are hit to right center. Critical to Kennedy’s development, according to Henderson, is her hitting instructor, Amanda Chidester. Chidester is the former all-state player from Allen Park Cabrini who was a two-time Big Ten Player of the Year at Michigan. Chidester hit 16 home runs in 2007, which is the softball equivalent of the dead-ball era (in 2011 there was a rule change that increased the distance from the pitching rubber to home plate from 40 to 43 feet).

Mona Shores coach Jason Crago said that rule change changed everything.

“Three feet is a huge difference,” he said. “You couldn’t swing for the fences back then.

“Now, the numbers are telling us to swing away, even with two strikes. Girls are getting better and better. They’re training to hit for power. They’re learning how to use their lower body. I’ve witnessed 65 home runs this season. We’ve hit 43 as a team. Girls are more fit. They’re doing more strength training.”

After hitting 22 home runs as a junior, Dew has 14 this season including one in a 7-5 district final victory over Grand Haven. Crago said it’s unrealistic to think Dew would match last year’s total. He said one a player moves into the home run spotlight, opposing teams identify you, will issue intentional walks more often and keep away from that player’s power zone. Of Dew’s 25 walks this season, 10 are intentional.

Nadolny has also walked 25 times this season, 20 of which were intentional. Once she was intentionally walked with the bases loaded.

L’Anse Creuse coach Lisa Downey said she’s never seen a hitter like Nadolny. Nadolny hits for average (.505) and has a 1.270 slugging percentage.

“After hitting 22 (her sophomore season), she wanted to top that,” Downey said. “I don’t think she’s happy that somebody has 25.”