Freshman utility player Sierra Lange has proven to be a Swiss Army knife for softball – delivering strong performances on both ends of the ball throughout her rookie campaign.
Initially recruited as a pitcher, Lange has proven herself beyond the mound as a strong hitter and fielder at the collegiate level.
This season for the Colonials, Lange has contributed big, timely hits, racking up six home runs and boasting a slugging percentage of .643. Lange’s .367 batting average is third on the team, and her .418 in-conference batting average is best on the team.
After 25 appearances in the circle, Lange’s 3.32 overall earned-run average is second only to senior pitcher Sarah Costlow’s 3.16.
In GW’s 8–0 win against Saint Louis Saturday, Lange threw her first shutout in her eighth complete game on the mound. She held the Billikens to four hits and secured the Colonials a berth in the Atlantic 10 Championship in her team-leading 13th win of the year.
“I’ve always been a utility player, pitching, infield, hitting,” Lange said. “It’s nothing that I didn’t know I could be capable of doing, it’s more about earning that spot.”
Playing as a shortstop and pitcher in high school for Plano West in Texas, Lange was also a staple at the plate, batting .396 in her junior year. To close out her high school career, Lange helped her high school team to a district championship.
Lange originally committed to play softball at South Dakota, where assistant coach Hallie Blackney was on staff at the time.
After joining DeFeo’s coaching staff, Blackney was instrumental in recruiting Lange. She said Blackney’s influence and her own interest in the academic programs drew her to GW.
Head coach James DeFeo said Lange’s natural batting ability has evolved throughout the season as she made more appearances at the plate.
“She’s gone from a kid who can just pretty much swing at anything to her being a little bit more poised,” DeFeo said. “A little bit more calm and relaxed in the box. Ready to hit her pitch instead of whatever the pitcher is throwing.”
Lange said her high school play, summer ball and stint with the Philippine National Team at the World Cup of Softball last summer helped her prepare for the college game. But even with intense preparation, Lange had to fight for a spot in the batting order once the season began.
“Something clicked in the middle of the season,” Lange said. “When I stopped caring and just having fun, not really focusing on the mechanics.”
Lange contributed a complete-game effort and an RBI single in a 4-2 win over Saint Joseph’s last month. Her seventh complete game of the season pulled the Colonials to a program-record 29 wins.
“One of the best things she’s done this year is she’s been able to really work on specific things,” DeFeo said. “When it’s time for hitting, she’s all in for hitting, when it’s time to pitch, she’s all in for pitching, and the same thing for defense.”
Midway through the season, DeFeo began letting Lange hit in games she was also pitching in after it became clear she felt more confident when pitching and batting in the same game, he said.
“She said that she felt more in the game when she pitched and hit, and she felt like she could affect the game on more fronts at that end,” DeFeo said. “Since then, whenever she’s pitching, she’s hitting.”
In addition to her duties in the circle and at the plate, Lange has logged time playing a myriad of infield positions. In games this season, she’s found herself playing shortstop, catcher and third base.
Costlow, a four-year starter for the team, has been an integral member of the pitching staff, appearing on the mound in 119 games and securing a program-record 50 wins during her career. With Lange in the lineup, Costlow said she has some breathing room in the circle.
“The past three years here, I’ve had to carry a huge load on my own,” Costlow said. “It’s nice to know that if I’m not throwing my best one day, there’s Sierra and she can shut them down.”
With Costlow graduating in the spring, the Colonials will look to Lange to take on a larger role in the circle.
“I think going forward, Sierra’s got some shoes to fill,” DeFeo said. “We’re always looking to get better, and we’re always looking to set new standards.”
Although she is performing at the top of the game on all sides of the ball, Lange’s excitement for the game helps stave off any fatigue.
“When I’m playing, I don’t think like, ‘oh, this is too much, I’m playing too much,’” Lange said. “I’ve been doing it my whole life. I wouldn’t want to waste an opportunity to play at my best.”