Skyline catcher dominates at the plate
Home runs aren't always impressive. Sometimes, a long drive manages to sail just an inch or two over the fence. Sometimes, hitters just get lucky.
But Skyline's Kristin Tatum, leading the state with six dingers this season through 12 games, isn't just lucky.
"There might have been one that the wind blew out," fellow Eagle Maddie Hunt says. "But those are mostly legit home runs."
It's not up for debate: The senior catcher has been crushing hits like no one else in Utah high school softball. She's evolved from a hitter with some power to a home run threat every time she steps to the plate.
Tatum says she used to get anxious, that she used to tense up a bit in the batter's box. Her recent hot streak is thanks in part to getting out of her own head.
"I could never quite find my comfort zone," she says. "I had to learn how to relax. Now I just sit back and let the ball come to me."
Tatum's emergence as Skyline's power hitter has helped the Eagles go 9-3 in their first 12 games. Run production has been key this year: In every game Skyline has scored five or more runs, it has won.
Offense has been all the more important this year. The team has a lot of experience: Five of the six seniors have started since freshman year. But the Eagles are also extremely shallow in pitching depth: Senior Hailey Jensen is Skyline's only varsity starter.
"It's tough if I go out there and have a shaky game," Jensen says. "I have to stay focused, and I can't let things get to me. It helps out that we have really good bats on the team."
Jensen and Tatum are as strong a pitching-catching duo as the state has to offer. The two seniors played club ball together, so they've developed a strong relationship on the field.
Tatum's presence behind the plate helps comfort Jensen on the mound. And although Tatum acknowledges it's a tough situation for the team to have just one pitcher, there's no one she'd rather have.
"Hailey's been a tournament pitcher for years, so she can handle it," Tatum says. "It's amazing because the more she pitches, the better she gets. In a tournament, her first game might not be her best, but by the third game, she's throwing hard. It's awesome to watch, but my hand starts to hurt."
Her role as a catcher has helped Tatum excel as a hitter as well. Not only has she learned to be more relaxed at the plate, but she says she usually can determine what type of pitch is coming.
Tatum keeps an eye on the opposing pitcher's delivery, and what kind of spin the ball has. She also has a strong sense about what pitches could come in certain situations, giving her an ability to anticipate what might be coming her way.
Hitting so well has its perks, but Tatum's personal accomplishments won't amount to much if they don't help the Eagles go far this year. Skyline dropped down to 4A, but is still in the same region as Murray, a powerhouse that has recently dominated the Eagles in region play.
Tatum knows Spartan pitcher Elise Johnson well from club softball. And she's itching to get a few swings on her this year.
"We should be in the championship this year we have a lot of experience and talent," Tatum says. "In the next few years, this year is probably Skyline's best chance to win a title."
Tatum's hot bat leads Eagles
Senior catcher Kristin Tatum has a state-high six home runs through 12 games.
Tatum's home run total this season has already eclipsed her four homers from her first three seasons.
Skyline has benefitted from her offensive prowess, going 9-0 when the Eagles score five or more runs.