Ulrich puts power on display in Aztec victory

Sophomore slugger hit her third, fourth and fifth home runs of the young season against Silver, all to different sections of the ballpark

Jake Newby

FARMINGTON — Green mesh fences set up 200 feet from home plate separate the softball field of play from home run territory at the Farmington Sports Complex.

Aztec's Jocelyn Ulrich smiles while greeting teammates and coach Roy Johnson after hitting her third home run of the day during a game against Silver on Saturday at the Farmington Sports Complex.

Today, on Field No. 6 of the complex against Silver, Aztec sophomore Jocelyn Ulrich made a mockery of those dimensions when she slugged a home run — the No. 5 hitter's third of the game — more than 100 feet past the mesh fence in right field during the seventh inning of a 10-2 Lady Tigers victory.

The softball rolled a bit when it finally landed, just shy of a concrete wall with a sign on it that reads "309" to indicate how many feet it is from the plate.

"I'm going to go get that one," Aztec softball coach Roy Johnson said. "She crushed it."

Ulrich's teammates and coaches know exactly what she is capable of. Last year, as a freshman, Ulrich paced all of Class 5A with 11 home runs. But that doesn't mean they aren't still a little awestruck at her feats of strength.

"Stop it," Aztec senior catcher Kylie Brown said jokingly to Ulrich as she neared the dugout after her towering blast. "Seriously, you've got to stop now."

Aztec's Jocelyn Ulrich gets a hit in the third inning of a game against Farmington on March 19 at Ricketts Park.

Studying her hitting tendencies for well over a year now, the second-year Aztec coach said he thinks Ulrich's power stems from her bat speed.

"Some people have unusual bat speed," Johnson said. "You can try and coach it, but some people just have a natural bat speed, and she has it. Even if she's late on a ball, the bat speed is so intense, it still gets out of the ballpark."

The sophomore agreed when analyzing her own swing after the game.

"I'm really not that big, so I have to assume it's bat speed," Ulrich said.

The 5-foot-7 Ulrich doesn't just have a mind to swing for the fences every time she steps in the batter's box. Last year, for an Aztec team that reached the 5A final and lost to Centennial, Ulrich led the Lady Tigers with a .520 batting average.

"She doesn't strike out," Johnson said. "What's amazing with her, she'll have a high batting average and a high home run average, which is almost impossible to see, even at the college level."

Although the left-handed-hitting Ulrich turned on the pitch that soared more than 300 feet over the right-field fence, pulling the ball is not the only way she knows how to terrorize a pitcher with her power, and she proved that this afternoon.

In the first inning against Silver, Ulrich hit a solo shot to left field, making good on the facet of hitting she worked on the most during the off-season — hitting outside pitches.

"It was outside corner, and I practiced that all the time with my dad," Ulrich said.

The third baseman/catcher smoked a ball that was delivered right down the center of the plate to deep left-center for another solo homer in the third inning, then had to fight a pitch off her hands late in the game to complete the long-ball hat trick.

"That one, (the pitcher) threw inside, trying to bust my hands to see if I'd miss it," Ulrich recalled. "But, I knew it was coming."

With four home runs already through three regular-season wins, Ulrich may not have her sights on state history, but she very could make it by the time the book closes on her sophomore campaign.

"She'll probably bat .500 or better and hit —," Johnson said, cutting himself off. "I don't know how many home runs she'll hit. The (state) record's 19, and don't be surprised if she breaks it."

Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.