RALEIGH — In fewer than two years, N.C. State shortstop Renada Davis has become a record-breaker for the softball team.
Last season she set school records for batting average (.362) and on-base percentage (.450), winning ACC freshman of the year.
This season, the 5-foot-5 sophomore has become a power hitter and has already broken the school’s single season home run record. She has hit 17 in 39 games after hitting just five a year ago.
Following the departure of head coach Lisa Navas, Davis has gone from hitting for contact to one of the most powerful bats in the conference under first-year coach Shawn Rychcik.
“She has a lot of God-given talent, so that makes it easier on us,” Rychcik said. “One thing we talked about was getting her to the back of the box and driving through the ball. She’s done a good job … I think part of it is being a sophomore and knowing what’s going on.
“I don’t know if this is going to be her career having these power numbers, but she’s worked hard to get here.”
David hit in the No. 2 and 3 spot in the lineup last season, torturing ACC pitchers by making contact and showing patience at the plate.
When Davis moved to the leadoff role this season, where she hit throughout high school, she transformed her game entirely.
Rather than trying to increase power or swinging for the fences, the comfort at the top of the lineup coupled with a new mindset in the box has turned Davis into the ACC leader in homers.
“My approach has changed a lot at the plate,” Davis said. “The coaching staff has helped a lot with not only working on my swing but slowing the game down and really seeing the ball … it was really mental for me. Not thinking about what need to be done but just going up there to bat.”
Her offense gets the most attention, but she has shored up her defense as well.
Davis credits the coaches for that improvement, but her teammate and friend Bethaney Wells thinks there’s a little more to it.
Wells has been in left field behind Davis and said she has already seen her develop more on the field than at the plate.
“When Renada came in she had to play immediately, so there was never a grace period where she could sit back and learn,” Wells said. “It took her a little while, but she’s figured out that it’s not as hard as she’s making it. Now when a ball is hit to her, there’s no doubt in my mind she’s making the play.”
With 10 games remaining, Davis has a chance of breaking another record, as she is chasing 26 home runs, an ACC mark set by Georgia Tech’s Jennifer Yee in 2010.
She has homered in three consecutive games and will continue the chase this weekend against rival North Carolina. It’s also somewhat of a second chance; the Tar Heels swept the Wolfpack last season in Chapel Hill. The three-game series starts with a doubleheader at 1 p.m. in Raleigh.
“As strong as our team is now, I’m confident that we can play with (UNC),” she said. “I’m really excited to see us whoop Carolina’s butt.”
Smith: 919-829-4841; @RCorySmith