Colorado-Colorado Springs first baseman Jessika Anastos doesn’t think she’ll duplicate her home-run record from last season. She’s really not interested in it either.
Setting the NCAA Division II record at .57 home runs per game last year was a great accomplishment, but didn’t contribute to many wins. UCCS’ softball team was 15-27 last year.
So Anastos’ attitude is, if she hits more home runs that’s fine. But she doesn’t want that to define her senior season, which begins Friday in Las Vegas against University of Mary and Dixie State.
“Personal accomplishments are great, but it’s so hard to lose, and your play isn’t winning games for the team,” said Anastos, who had 24 home runs last season - one off the national leader.
UCCS coach Scott Peterson said her team-first attitude isn’t fake. Anastos didn’t enjoy the personal attention she got last year, he said, because of her quiet nature.
“It’s like she wants to crawl in a hole,” Peterson said. “When we presented her the All-American stuff, it was like she wanted to hide.”
Peterson has had to encourage Anastos to be more of a vocal leader – she was named one of the team’s four captains - which she has done. She said she wants to help the many freshmen acclimate quickly to help the Mountain Lions make the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference playoffs, which they missed out on a year ago. Peterson said the team’s defense should be better, and if the pitching comes around UCCS could improve.
Even though Anastos’ record might not be important to her (“It might be something I never duplicate again,” she said), it will be an interesting footnote to UCCS’ season. With 20 more home runs she will tie Crystal Krebs’ career UCCS record. With fellow power hitters Christina Blanton and Traci Everett to protect her in the lineup, Anastos should see enough good pitches to have another big season. Getting help will be important for her season. Peterson said when Anastos played at Fort Hays State, before transferring to UCCS, the Mountain Lions would try to pitch around her.
“She’d beat us anyway,” Peterson said.
Anastos’ approach is solid, as well. Curiously, her swing is not conducive to hitting home runs. She is a line drive hitter who just happens to hit the ball hard enough to consistently produce home runs. That level swing helps her avoid slumps. And she is cognizant of not getting behind in the count, which helps her see good pitches.
If she happens to break her record, she probably won’t make a big deal about it. Setting it last year didn’t cross her mind too often.
“At the time I didn’t think about it much,” Anastos said. “But when I look back on it, it’s almost surreal.”