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Division II State Softball: Keystone once again powered by the long ball

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When Keystone set a state record by hitting 45 home runs during its 2012 state championship season, it seemed likely the mark would stand the test of time.

It might be only a few years.

After a five-homer barrage in a Division II regional final 11-0 win over Maumee on Sunday, this year’s Keystone team is just two home runs shy of equaling the total.

Junior Sammie Stefan leads the team with 13 home runs, while senior Summer Constable is right on her heels with 11. Ten Keystone players have hit at least one home run this season.

“It’s just a matter of kids buying into our system of hitting — pitch selection and waiting to swing at your pitch,” Keystone coach Jim Piazza said. “It’s all a mindset. If you buy into that, you’ll see the end result and become a great hitter.”

Constable, who has hit two homers in a game twice this year, said no matter who puts the ball over the fence it’s exciting for everyone in the dugout.

“We are such a close-knit family that when one girl hits a home run it’s like every single girl hit it,” Constable said. “We work so hard together as a team, so it’s exciting to see any of my teammates hit a home run.”

Stefan, who holds Keystone’s career home run record with 25, said her focus is never on hitting home runs. Want proof? Constable and Stefan have the two highest batting averages on the team at .598 and .575, respectively.

“Home runs are always good,” Stefan said. “But as long as we put the bat on the ball we’ll be in good shape.”

Stefan also has two multihomer games and had a stretch this season in which she hit a home run in three consecutive games.

Junior Lauren Shaw and sophomore Madi Nunez also have hit two home runs in a game this season.

“You see how excited the girls get every time there’s a home run,” Piazza said. “They come sprinting out of the dugout to make a tunnel at home plate to greet the home run hitter. Hitting home runs can also help change the momentum of the game.”

The pitching rubber was moved from 40 to 43 feet prior to the 2011 season, a move that brought more offense into the game. But Piazza said other changes have made it harder to coach prolific home run hitters.

“The biggest challenge today is there are so many people out there in the kids’ ear with so many opinions how things should be done,” Piazza said. “We feel like what we’ve done has been proven to work so why change? When the younger girls come into the program and see the results, they’re ready to buy in.”

While nothing is more important to the Keystone players than bringing home a fourth state championship this weekend, Constable thought about what it would feel like to hit a home run in a packed Firestone Stadium.

“It would be amazing,” Constable said, “to be in front of 3,000 people, hit a home run and see the sea of purple just go wild.”

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