Junior Williams breaks WU softball record by hitting career home run No. 39

In just two-and-a-half seasons at Washburn, third baseman Tish Williams surpassed the school’s career home run record with 39. Senior Dani White, who has hit 36, is also likely to pass the total later this season.

Washburn softball’s home run race didn’t have the same fanfare as McGwire vs. Sosa in 1998, but it did involve two of the school’s all-time greatest hitters going neck and neck.

Unlike the MLB’s steroid-induced slugfest, neither player was even aware they were approaching the record.

Junior Tish Williams was the first to break former teammate Brooke DeVader’s record, hitting home run No. 39 last Sunday in a 6-3 win against Southwestern Oklahoma State.

Senior Dani White, who plays across the diamond from Williams at first base, is two blasts away from tying DeVader’s mark, currently ranked No. 3 on the list with 36 home runs.

“It’s not something we talked about, or even knew about at all until it happened,” said Williams. “It was a complete surprise until after the game, someone told me I broke the record.”

The home run total is even more impressive after considering the pace Williams is hitting them.

DeVader wrapped up her four-year career with the team last season, well aware that someone like Williams or White would top the feat. While the three sluggers have comparable stats, only Williams amassed the numbers in less than three years.

“With her hitting that many before her senior year, there’s still time for her to add on to her own record,” said manager Lisa Carey. “She still has about a year and a half left to play here.”

Williams has gone yard nine times this season, while White continues to close in quickly with five in 2009.

“They’re all great hitters,” said Carey. “That’s something they all have in common. They all played together last season, and they can all put up big numbers.”

Rather than focusing on rewriting the record books, the main goal for Williams and White is to match the success they had last year, when DeVader helped lead the team to a berth in postseason play.

Williams said the most important part of home run No. 39 was the impact it had on the game.

“It’s nice to have the record and be up there with someone like Brooke,” said Williams. “But the main thing we’re trying to do is keep getting wins so we can make regionals again.”

Despite playing all but two of their first 29 games on the road, the Blues still maintained a respectable record. The team has bounced back from a 1-9 record to their current 13-18 mark.

3-2 records in each of their last two tournaments has helped the team’s confidence, as well as gaining experience against MIAA competition.

The Blues beat Pittsburg State in a tournament at Missouri Southern in early March, then shutout Truman State in the ESU Tournament, where Williams hit the record home run.

On Sunday, the Blues lost their first home game of the season in a 1-0 shutout, but found their offense in game two, winning 7-0 against Benedictine.

Neither of WU’s all-MIAA sluggers added to their home run total, but both played huge roles offensively.

White was 4-for-4 in game two and had two RBIs to lead the Blues in their 11-hit performance.

Williams scored twice and had RBI of her own while finishing the game 2-for-3.

Benedictine’s Michala Green logged a complete game shutout in game one, but even then the Blues still managed to get on base successfully.

The Raven pitcher didn’t have any strikeouts, and WU even outhit their opponents 6-4. The problem for the Lady Blue offense was driving the runners home, a dilemma that was solved early and often in game two.

Pitcher Kayla Moore made sure Benedictine wouldn’t rally, throwing a complete game shutout to match Green’s performance in the first game and improving to 6-9.

With the offensive support of White and Williams, the team took another step toward’s their goal of making the postseason once again.

“The numbers are nice,” said Williams. “But the best part of hitting a home run is helping the team out by putting a run on the board.”