WILLIAMSPORT — Kayla Ewing insists she’s not trying to hit home runs.
“I’ve been focusing on contact, and the home runs just pop up here and there,” Williamsport’s senior catcher said Friday.
Lately, those homers have been popping up everywhere — and if that continues, Ewing will pop up in the Maryland state record book.
Ewing has hit nine home runs in 15 games so far this season — including seven in the last nine games. She’s three homers away from tying the state record of 12 set by Broadneck’s Kourtney Salvarola in 2007.
“I’m just proud of myself. I was hoping for a good year, since it’s my senior year. I’m trying to do all I can and go out with a bang,” Ewing said. “After two or three home runs, I just had a lot of confidence in myself. (My confidence) is sky-high.”
“I always have our stats with us in the dugout before games,” Wildcats coach Jennie Finafrock said. “A couple weeks ago, Kayla sat down next to me and asked if she could see the stats, and I said no. She’s like, ‘Oh, come on, Coach, I just want to see!’ She had five home runs at the time, but I didn’t want her to think about that. But I eventually gave in. A week later, she had eight. It hasn’t affected her.
“I’d love for her to get it, but if she doesn’t, she’s still having an amazing year.”
Ewing’s power has been on display throughout her prep career. She hit two home runs as a freshman, three as a sophomore and four as a junior.
If there was a criticism of Ewing in the past, it’s that she tried too hard to hit home runs at the expense of her hitting fundamentals, leading to numerous popups that lowered her average. She hit .356 through her first three seasons — solid, but not eye-popping.
“Last year I struggled a lot with dipping my shoulder,” Ewing said. “This year, I’ve been working on staying back.”
The fruits of that work were on display Friday against Clear Spring.
Ewing didn’t homer in that game, but went 3-for-3 with two doubles against Blazers ace Amber Forrest — arguably the top pitcher in Washington County. All three of Ewing’s hits were to the opposite field.
“Kayla really understands the game, and that helps her hitting tremendously,” Finafrock said. “She sees what happens, learns from it and adjusts, and that’s what makes her so good. She’s making a statement this year.”
Ewing’s .614 average this season leads all Washington County hitters — and there’s a lot of good ones this season. North Hagerstown’s Allysen Breeden, Boonsboro’s Haley Payne and Smithsburg’s trio of Brooke Parks, Cara Ferguson and Shayla Murray all are having tremendous offensive seasons.
But no one is having the kind of season Ewing is. She has multi-homer games against Manchester Valley, Boonsboro and Brunswick, and hit a walk-off three-run shot in the ninth inning to beat North Hagerstown on April 14 — “She left that one hanging real bad, and I just jumped on it,” Ewing said.
Since a 7-for-16 start to the season (a .438 average), Ewing is 20-for-28 (.714) with seven homers and 22 RBIs.
“There was a home game — I don’t remember who it was against — but she struck out and flew out or something, made two outs in a row, and she comes back to the dugout and says, ‘I suck! I can’t hit the ball,’” Finafrock said. “And I told her, ‘You’re 0-for-2 and still hitting .400. You’re going to hit.’ She said, ‘You’re right, I’m going to hit!’ And her next time up she hit a double, and the next game she homered.
“She’s never had a time this season when anyone thought, ‘She may not get out of (a slump).’ She’s staying hot, and I hope she stays hot through the playoffs.”