AZTEC — May 14, 2016 was the day that forever altered the course of Jocelyn Ulrich’s softball career.
The Aztec infielder, who was just a freshman at the time, belted a 350-foot home run over the right-center bleachers against Centennial in Game 1 of the 2016 state championship series, sending the ball well into the tennis courts that sat right behind the University of New Mexico's Lobo Softball Field.
A power hitter had been born.
Since then, Ulrich has cemented her reputation as one of the state’s top sluggers. And her numbers keep rising and putting fear into opposing pitchers.
“That’s definitely where the intentional walks come in. That’s kind of like a back-handed compliment,” Ulrich said. “It’s pretty nice… just to be recognized in that way, especially through social media when girls start following you. You hear people talk about me, and it’s pretty nice to know that I’m known for what I do.”
Ulrich, who will continue her softball career at UNM, is a a career .517 batter with 37 home runs and 193 RBIs.
This season alone, Ulrich is hitting .630 with five home runs and 28 RBIs.
Ulrich has developed more of that killer instinct at the plate, constantly seeking out that one pitch where she knows she can blast it over the fence.
Early in pitch counts, Ulrich is deadly against inside pitches because her of bat speed, which recently clocked in at 70 miles per hour.
“I don’t let myself poke at the ball. I don’t let myself have half-cuts, because I think every at-bat is a great opportunity for myself. So I always try to hit it as hard as I can,” Ulrich said. “When I’m ahead in the count, I know that I’m able to wait until I see my pitch.”
Opposing pitchers resorted to attacking the outer corners, but Ulrich soon found a way to combat that. She’d wait for the pitch to drop further into the box before making contact, drive her shoulder into the pitch more and she’d still smash it deep.
“If you wait on it, it gets on the sweet part of your bat. She’s teaching herself how to let it get deep and hit it on the good part of her bat,” coach Roy Johnson said. “She’s hitting home runs with pitches she shouldn’t have swung at. Pitches that probably were balls, she’s hit home runs on because of her bat speed.”
Entering the next level, Ulrich said she wants to have as much control as possible attacking pitches inside and out.
Ulrich knows that May 14, 2016 forever changed her reputation on the hitting end.
She knows that day illustrated what she’s capable of doing today and in the future.
Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.