Cruce a consistent hit for Lady Toppers

Sophomore infielder Preslie Cruce avoids a pitch from a Samford pitcher during their game Wednesday night. Cruce has set a WKU record for being hit by pitches in a career. 

Kyle Williams

An average collegiate softball ranges from 11 to 12 inches in circumference and about six to seven ounces in weight. Picture yourself willingly letting one clobber you at about 50 to 60 miles per hour.   

This is just another day in the life of a softball player.  

WKU sophomore infielder Preslie Cruce said she still has a knot on her wrist from being hit when the

Lady Toppers took on Louisiana-Lafayette over a month ago.

“I don’t even think anything about it,” Cruce said.

In this just her second season playing for the Lady Toppers, Cruce has already broken the all-time record for hits-by-pitch at WKU.      

Cruce tied the previous record of 25, set by Laura Smith in the 2011-12 season, in the third game of the year against Lipscomb.

It took the Alabama native just 62 games to tie the record, as she started all 59 games as a freshman.     

Cruce went on to break the record three games later in a win against Western Michigan. She has totaled 37 career hits-by-pitch, 13 of them coming this season.  

Coach Tyra Perry said Cruce’s early progression has already solidified her as a leader on the team.

“Preslie is a great player,” Perry said. “Just a great kid to be around…she just expects to do well and wants to help the team so much. That’s actually what really drives her…I can’t say enough about Preslie Cruce.”

Cruce started playing at a young age and although she throws right-handed, she switched to batting left-handed once she started fast pitch softball.

Cruce said the change allowed her to draw more hits by pitch.

“Once I switched to left-handed I don’t get out of the way as quick,” Cruce said. “So it just hits me. I kind of do stand on the plate, but recently I’ve backed off. Sometimes I still get hit.”

Though Cruce leads the Lady Toppers in getting hit, she also leads the team in batting average (.365) and overall hits (38) this season. She said staying calm and confident is key to her well-rounded offensive game.

“Just being relaxed and having confidence,” Cruce said. “Like positive thoughts. I even do that for other batters. I try to think positive for them and it usually works.”

Cruce was recently named Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week after WKU notched a series victory over No. 23 South Alabama. Cruce said the honor was just a stepping stone for her future success.

“I was really excited about that because that’s the first time,” she said. “I just want reach different goals for my four years and that’s just one step.”

WKU (22-13, 9-3) sits in second place in the Sun Belt and is looking to carry momentum into the weekend for a series with Louisiana-Monroe.

“Momentum-wise, I think we need to keep playing team ball,” Cruce said. “For myself, just stay where I am right now because I’ve been doing really well.”

As for Cruce, Perry said there’s a lot more in store for the sophomore leadoff batter in her next two years with the Lady Toppers.

“I think the sky is the limit for Preslie,” Perry said. “I think she can be and do anything she wants in this game…The more that she experiences and matures because she is so young, the better all-around player we’re going to see on the field.”