Top slugger: Budmark emerges from early slump to pace DWU offense
As her collegiate softball career draws to a close, Amber Budmark knows that it is not feasible to get on base in every at-bat. Early in her time at Dakota Wesleyan University, that wasn't always the case. Budmark even struggled a bit with her co...
As her collegiate softball career draws to a close, Amber Budmark knows that it is not feasible to get on base in every at-bat.
Early in her time at Dakota Wesleyan University, that wasn't always the case. Budmark even struggled a bit with her confidence at the plate during the early portion of this season, but it has changed in a big way.
Heading into a doubleheader at the College of Saint Mary in Omaha, Nebraska, today to close the regular season, Budmark's nine home runs are tied for second in the Great Plains Athletic Conference and her 0.28 home runs per game lead the conference.
"For me to think I'm going to get on base every time is just crazy," Budmark said. "I have to really step back and think that if I'm getting on base one out of three times, I'm still doing good. ... If I let that first strike go, I still have two more to get it done."
The first time she visited the DWU campus, the Sacramento, California, native knew she had found the right fit. Success did not immediately follow, however, as a shoulder injury limited Budmark to 12 games in her freshman season.
She came back to hit five home runs and drove in a career-high 30 RBIs in 148 at-bats as a sophomore, but it was not until the tail end of the Tigers' annual spring trip to Tucson, Arizona, that Budmark truly found her power.
Through the first 10 games of the season, Budmark was 7-for-31, with no home runs and one RBI. On a March 6 outing against Dakota State, she came out of her slump to blast two home runs and drive in four runs to start a three-game stretch that saw her go 6-for-11, with four homers and 13 RBIs.
It was a talk with her parents-who used the trip to Arizona as one of the rare opportunities to watch her play in person-that eventually led Budmark to get back on track.
"My dad really talked me through it," Budmark said. "He was like, 'You know how to hit, you know what a ball and a strike is, stop thinking about it.' I have been playing since I was 5, I know how to swing a bat and getting out of my head was a big part of it."
Since then, Budmark has maintained consistency throughout the majority of the season and his become a mainstay at third base. She is hitting .313 for the year and .353 since the first 10 games of the season. She is also one home run behind Mount Marty's Amber Writer for the GPAC lead, despite playing eight fewer games.
Budmark is also two longballs away from tying the DWU single-season mark of 11, set by Savannah Ahumada in 2016. The uptick in offensive production may have appeared suddenly, but DWU head coach Ed Kieff saw it coming.
"Even as a high school senior, she was pretty strong and had a pretty quick bat," Kieff said. "I'm not really surprised, I'm just glad that it's come together and everything she's worked for has come together."
DWU (12-28) needs to sweep Saint Mary and have Doane lose its final two games to Mount Marty to qualify for the GPAC tournament.