Underwood leads softball in home runs with power hitting


Junior first baseman Erika Underwood poses for a portrait on April 12 in Margo Jonker Stadium. 

Power hitting has been Erika Underwood's identity since she first stepped into the batter's box. 

From playing at Addison High School, summer and travel leagues, Underwood has always viewed herself as the same player — someone who can drive the ball over the fence.

Now, she’s doing it at the Division I level and leading her team in the home run category.

"It's not really anything new," Underwood said of her team-high batting numbers. 

The junior first baseman leads the Central Michigan softball team with seven home runs — four more than anyone else on the team. Outside of Underwood, the team has 10 homers.

“My confidence has a lot to do with my power and it’s been something I know I’m capable of,” Underwood said. “Trusting my plan when I step into the box and not second guessing myself has helped a lot.”

As a freshman, the Pittsford native only played in 17 games and didn't hit one single home run. In 2017, she tied for the team lead with five home runs in 50 games played. 

Now as a junior, she’s surpassed that total in only 34 games. She leads the team with a .438 batting average — good for No. 4 in the Mid-American Conference. 

She also boasts the second-best slugging percentage (.787) while being tied for seventh in the conference with seven home runs. 

“I had to bring back my confidence in college ball because I lost it all when I first got here," Underwood said. "I’ve gained it back now.”

Head coach Margo Jonker said she isn't surprised by Underwood's power surge at the plate this season. It is why the team recruited Underwood.

“I anticipated she would come into her own, it was just a matter of how long it would take,” Jonker said. “She needed to take a step back mentally and the physical game would come right with it.”

Underwood initially struggled to hit at the college level because other teams scout her — something that didn't happen often in high school. 

“When teams have scouting reports on you, it gives them an immediate advantage,” Underwood said. “You have to become good at your worst pitch, which I’ve done a lot better recently to become the hitter I am this year.”

Senior catcher Maison Kalina thinks Underwood's hitting brings the team energy.

“It’s really easy for the team to rally around her with big hits,” Kalina said. “She’s such a great player and person outside of the softball field. It’s great to have her around as a power hitter and teammate.”

Underwood always tries to keep the same approach at the plate, but sometimes batting superstitions get to her. For Underwood, sometimes it is her hairstyle.  

“If you don’t hit well one game, you change your hair or maybe even right after an at-bat," Underwood said. 

With the way she's hitting right now, Underwood wants to keep everything the same so she can keep getting offense for her team, she said. 

Regardless of the routine or superstition, Underwood is statistically having her best season as a Chippewa in the batter's box.