Progression is there when Nick Robinson looks at Kassidy Bantz.
And that’s something the West Central head coach is incredibly happy with.
The Blue Devils’ freshman first baseman has played well even as West Central (1-8) has gotten off to a rocky, slow start while Robinson mixes youth, inexperience and experience.
“Even as an eighth-grader I could tell right away that she understood the game and was a good decision-maker,” Robinson said of Bantz, who played in five games and started twice during the truncated 17-game.
“And she’s pretty even-keeled, too. She doesn’t get too up or too down with the lows and highs that happen in softball.”
Bantz batted .291 last season with 16 hits in 55 at-bats. She drove in 15, scored 14 runs, walked five times and stole a base. When the 2021 preseason came, Robinson saw an immediate improvement from Bantz.
“At the plate, she is one who I believe will always put it in play and take good at-bats,” he said. “That’s usually the big step as a freshman if you play eighth grade and freshman year.
“When you’re an eighth-grader, you’re seeing varsity pitching for the first time. As a freshman, you have games under your belt and I’ve seen that comfortability with her against these pitchers. She’s putting the ball in play more, even if it’s an out.”
Robinson hasn’t updated team statistics recently, but Bantz hit .444 with four singles, two runs, an RBI and a walk in the opening four games.
“She actually got an unfortunate single a couple games ago,” Robinson recalled. “She hit it really far and really high and it one-hopped off the wall. We had someone on first who wasn’t sure if the ball was going to be caught or not in left and didn’t move until late. It ended up being as long of a single as you can have.”
“I’m waiting for that hitting to translate to extra-base hits, but it’s coming.”
Robinson believes Bantz is versatile enough to play three of the four infield positions and in the outfield. Her future, according to Robinson, might be across the diamond at third.
“She has a really good, strong arm that lends itself to that position, or can be good for the outfield,” the coach said.
Bantz also pitches. She went 1-1 in 12 2/3 innings last season with five strikeouts and is 0-1 this season, per statistics available. Bantz and eighth-grader Faith Steinbronn are slated behind sophomore starter and mainstay Abby Squires.
“With our conference doubleheaders, Abby is penciled in for seven innings and then it’s figuring out how we’re going to get those other 21 outs,” Robinson said. “It’s going to be a by committee thing as the younger pitchers, which Kassidy is one, learn how to work through mechanics and facing varsity hitting and things like that.
“She’s a big part of keeping nine players out on the field for our varsity defensively.”