Sophomore right fielder Grace Shukaitis has developed into another one of the Rowan softball team’s young stars.
Shukaitis attended Clifton High School where she was a three-season athlete in basketball, volleyball and softball. She saw extreme success on the softball field, as she was named a team captain her junior year and was named to the All-League first team for three seasons throughout her high school career. She also received All-County honors three times and won two league championships.
But before she saw success on the diamond, she got her start in little league at a young age.
“So I actually started baseball when I was about two years old,” Shukaitis said. “And then I transitioned to softball when I was about 12 years old.”
During her high school years, she controlled the infield, where she played both middle infield positions.
“I actually played second base in high school, I was a captain my junior year, and my sophomore year of high school I went to shortstop,” Shukaitis said. “Throughout club, throughout wherever it was, I mostly only played infield.”
During her time as a Prof though, she has created a home in the outfield. So far this season she has started all but two games and has found success in right field.
“I’ve always loved the outfield, but I was more of an infield spot until I got to college, where I feel like I did succeed a lot more catching fly balls than I did fielding ground balls,” Shukaitis said.
So far this season, Shukaitis has done an efficient job on the defensive end. She has earned a 94.3 fielding percentage making only two errors in 31 games played. Although Shukaitis’s presence is felt in the field, she says there are two big strengths that she brings to the team.
“I honestly think my biggest strength is my arm and maybe my hitting. But I feel like I have a very strong arm and can bring a lot to the table in that aspect,” Shukaitis said. “But in my hitting, I just feel like staying calm. I don’t stay calm all the time, I don’t think anyone stays calm all the time, but to be able to zone back in and stay confident and be up there is probably one of my strengths as well.”
Last season, Shukaitis only played in five games, had three at-bats and did not record a hit. This year, she has solidified her spot in the starting lineup where she is fourth on the team with 19 RBIs and is batting 0.267.
She discusses not playing last year as a freshman and how she used it to motivate herself this season.
“I think honestly [I] had kind of a different mindset, ‘I did sit this year, but by sitting I did learn a lot about the team.’ And that’s how I feel like I kinda fit into it, I saw and I learned and I and I tried to adapt into what their groove is, and my groove,” Shukaitis said. “And obviously work my butt off all summer and all fall, and to just try and get the spot.”
In working her way into the starting lineup, Shukaitis primarily bats ninth, which is a vital position considering how dangerous the entirety of the lineup is. As Shukaitis steps up to the plate, she understands how important of a role she plays.
“Honestly I think my goal is to just produce for the team. Obviously, I want to do well for myself, but it’s not all about me. I always trust our number one, McKenzie [Melvin], for her to get on, so she is obviously a very good bunter. So as long as I can do my job and get on [base] and her helping me move over and score, that’s kinda the main goal,” Shukaitis said. “Even the batters before me, Devyn [DiPasquale] or Bri [Breanna Bryant] or Liz [McCaffery], whoever’s on base, my goal is to try to help me help them out. It is more of a team aspect than more of a personal, me aspect. So I try to help them more than I am thinking about myself.”
She has seen success at the plate where she has collected 23 hits, four doubles, her first career home run and 14 runs.
In her last eight games, Shukaitis has amassed eight hits, six RBIs and two doubles. She cites her mentality as why she has been so successful at the plate as of recently.
“Honestly everytime I get an at-bat I’m not thinking about the last one,” Shukaitis said. “I’m thinking about the one I am up at now, and just trying to do the best I can.”
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