Senior capitalizing on last shot

Senior+capitalizing+on+last+shot

By Brent Meske, @brentmeskeDE

SIU softball’s designated player Caylee Cook is going all in this year, not only because she’s a senior.

“I feel like I’ve wasted three years kind of halfway doing everything,” she said. “This is it, I might as well go all in because it’s all I’ve got left. Why waste that?”

Cook has already tied her three-year totals with two home runs and 10 RBIs this season and has one more double, four, than she did before this season. The senior has 24 total bases entering play on Sunday, one shy of her totals for the last three seasons.

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Cook came into the season with a career .136 batting average and is batting .275 this season. She said even though coaches tell players not to worry about their averages, Cook wants that number to improve as she has more at-bats.

So far, the senior attributes the turnaround to increased playing time.

“The last three years, I haven’t really had that chance,” she said. “When I did, I didn’t take it.”

Cook started less than half (34) of her 69 appearances through the first three years, but she has started 17 — and appeared in 20 — of the team’s 24 games this season.

The Vinta, Okla., native said now she can play “comfortable,” which means attacking an at-bat early and staying confident at the plate.

“I try to get on something early that they leave or don’t expect me to hit,” she said

Consistency has come for Cook in the form of position and batting order. She’s started 17 of the team’s 24 games at designated player and has batted fifth in 10 of those games, sixth in five and seventh in two.

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Coach Kerri Blaylock said the five-six-seven spots are where she likes Cook’s bat because she can protect junior first baseman Shaye Harre, who has batted cleanup in all games this year.

Cook said she likes batting by Harre and junior center fielder Merri Anne Patterson because they will pick her up if she doesn’t get on base.

The 22-year-old said she enjoys being an underdog this season because of how she performed the previous three years. This was on display during a 4-1 loss to Stetson on Feb. 27 when the Hatters intentionally walked Harre to load the bases in the bottom of the sixth.

Cook said she realizes why they walked Harre — who she said comes through nine times out of 10 — to get to her, but it’s a lack of respect.

“It worked for them then, but I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s going to work next time,” she said.

Blaylock said Cook has the moxie of a player who wants to be in a game-winning situation. While she has not hit a walk-off home run, she drove in the eventual game-winning run against Butler on March 13. She is batting .222 with runners in scoring position.

Cook hit a one-out double in the top of the seventh inning, driving in Harre, to plate the second run of the game. 

“I’m getting a shot now to play, so I think it’s important to improve everything so I can remain a big part of the team and stay a contributor,” Cook said.

Time will tell if Cook continues making the most of her increased workload, but she’s determined to make it happen.

“Even if it doesn’t go my way,” she said. “[I’ll] just keep trying.” 

Brent Meske can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3333

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