According to Center Grove softball coach Russ Milligan, catcher is the most natural position for junior standout Jordyn Rudd.
“That’s why I put her in right her freshman year and at third last year, because that’s how good of a coach I am,” he joked.
This year, though, Rudd is expected to be behind the plate full-time for a Trojans team taking the highest of expectations into today’s season opener.
It’s not like Rudd hasn’t caught before; quite the contrary. But with a capable backstop on the Center Grove roster the last two years in Maddie London, Rudd was called upon to fill positions of need — right field on the Trojans’ 2015 state championship team and third base last spring.
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Most ordinary players would balk at being asked to move around, but Rudd isn’t ordinary. She grew up playing multiple positions at the behest of her father, who wanted to give her as many pathways to a college scholarship as possible.
(That strategy, by the way, has paid off; Rudd is already committed to play softball at Northwestern.)
“I’ve played everywhere throughout my travel career,” Rudd said. “I am comfortable playing wherever (Milligan) wants me, so if he moves me around again it does not matter to me. I’m perfectly fine with it; I’ll play anywhere.”
Milligan, though, doesn’t seem like he’s ready to move Rudd again anytime soon.
“When you see this kid catch, you can see someone that was just born to be behind the plate,” he said.
She’s not too bad at the plate, either.
Over her first two seasons, Rudd has been a menace. She brings a career batting average of .497 into today’s game, and her on-base plus slugging (OPS) is a robust 1.332. After hitting three home runs as a freshman, Rudd smacked seven more last season — as much a product of hard work, she says, as it is physical maturation.
None of it’s forced, either. Rudd doesn’t go out of her way to hit the long ball, and she doesn’t chase pitches; in two full years of high school softball, she’s struck out just four times.
If there’s anything Milligan would change about Rudd’s hitting style, it’s that he’d like her to be just a little bit more patient. Even with teams starting to pitch around her, she walked just eight times last year after drawing five free passes as a freshman.
Rudd knows that she’s likely to have more pitchers being careful with her, but she makes no bones about the fact that she prefers to remain aggressive.
“I want a chance to hit,” she said, “because walking’s not fun.”
If walks are what’s going to help her team, though, Rudd will likely suck it up and take the base. Center Grove always sets its expectation level high as a team, and this year is no different.
“We’re here to win,” Rudd said. “We definitely are going for that state championship, no doubt. We have the talent and everything; we just need to work hard and work as a team.”
Whiteland vs. Center Grove
Where: Center Grove Middle School
When: 5 p.m.
Note: This will be the season opener for both teams.
Jordyn Rudd’s first two seasons at Center Grove have been nothing short of spectacular: