New Castle News

Sports

May 15, 2013

Athlete of the Week: Meet Kim Burdett of Shenango

NEW CASTLE — Sitting in math class. Eating lunch with friends. Brushing her teeth.    

No matter what Kim Burdett finds herself doing, there’s a good chance there’s one thing first and foremost on her mind — softball.

“I feel like I just live the game,” she said. “I live, breathe and always think about softball. I’m in school and I’m thinking when’s our next game? I can’t wait to play.”

Burdett often finds her mind wandering to the diamond, especially with how good she’s been for the Shenango High softball team this season.

To call Burdett’s junior season anything less than staggering wouldn’t be doing it justice. To start, she leads her team in home runs (4), almost triples her teammates in RBIs (43), posts the top mark in walks (12) and holds the team high in average (.569).

“Kimmy’s been a big hitter for us. She’s been in the four-spot (in the batting order) pretty much the last three years,” Lady Wildcats coach Amy Delaney said.  “She comes through with runners on, she gets on base, she gets runs when we need them and she really comes up in those clutch situations and delivers.”

Burdett has been the definition of clutch this season, hitting a scorching .606 with runners in scoring position, a mark that is better than her overall average. Her OPS (on-base plus slugging) of 1.626 would be a single-season record in Major League Baseball.

“The girls ahead of her do a good job of getting on base,” Delaney added. “She comes up and is pretty clutch in being able to deliver that hit and get that run in.”

Last week was a typical outcome for Burdett. In her team’s season finale, she notched three hits — a double, single and home run — and tallied four RBIs in a 13-8 victory over Ellwood City Lincoln. The performance earned her Lawrence County Athlete of the Week honors, an award sponsored by Washington Centre Physical Therapy and selected by the New Castle News sports staff.

Burdett’s softball career started when she was 11 years old at the request of her father, Bill Burdett, who thought she would excel at the sport.

“I actually started playing baseball when I was little,” she said. “I actually used to pitch and everything. I just loved softball from the start, because it was completely different than what baseball was. Everyone talked more and everything was so much closer. You didn’t have to run as far on the bases. It just felt like everything was a lot more of a challenge.”

Before she started making waves as Shenango’s top hitter, Burdett played travel ball with the local Silver Creek Starz, a team she still plays on today with her dad pulling double-duty as coach. Bill, a former New Castle baseball player, recognized early on where the talent was in the family.

“He always makes fun saying I’m always faster than he ever would have been running the bases, or he wouldn’t have made the plays I do sometimes,” Kim laughed.

Things weren’t always easy for Burdett at the plate. Like most power hitters, she had to learn to develop a feel for her swing and an eye for the ball.

“When I first started playing, my batting was terrible. I couldn’t see the ball. I didn’t really have any discipline at the plate. If it was at my ankles, I’d still try swinging for it,” she said. “Now, I feel like I have more control and I’ll notice it sooner and see it breaking before I actually decide if I want to swing or not.

“I’ve been going to a batting coach, Greg DeMatteo, for a couple of years. Every time I go up to the plate, I just think of what he used to tell me when we were at batting practice. I go through the steps in my mind before I get into the batters box — hips first, not hands. I always tend to do that a lot, and I end up getting a groundout instead of actually hitting it to the outfield like I do.”

DeMatteo’s daughter, Marissa, is a top hitter for the Neshannock softball team this season.

Starting as a pitcher, Burdett soon realized hurling the ball from the pitching circle wasn’t the thing for her. So she moved her talents around the field, making herself available at every position.

Eventually, she settled on first base, a position which provided a whole new set of challenges.

“Sometimes I actually have to go into a full-out split to catch a ball before it even hits the ground and pull it up and be like, I caught it. It’s still an out,” she said.

Burdett’s improvements over the years are visible to her head coach. Now, with a first-round playoff date against Sto-Rox at 5 p.m. tomorrow at Shaler — the team’s fourth postseason appearance in six years — Delaney is hoping her right-handed slugger will provide the pop and the defense to help lead the Lady Wildcats to victory.

  “Kimmy has a good work ethic. That’s one area I think she’s matured and grown in over the last couple years,” Delaney said. “She’s not just showing up to go through the motions, she’s really making the most out of every drill or everything that we’re doing in practice. With that, I think she’s going to continue to grow as a player, continue to progress and definitely has the ability to play in college and be successful at the collegiate level. If she just continues with that work ethic, she’ll be very successful on the academic side of college as well.”

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