N.C. State Softball

NC State softball star Caitlin Dent, daughter of Bucky, exceeds expectations

calexander@newsobserver.comMay 16, 2013 

— N.C. State outfielder Caitlin Dent has long since gotten over all the eyebrow-raising and expectations that go with being the daughter of Bucky Dent.

Yes, that Bucky Dent.

The Bucky Dent whose three-run homer for the New York Yankees in 1978 beat the Boston Red Sox in a one-game playoff at Fenway Park, breaking a million New England hearts.

Caitlin Dent is proud of her pop, proud of his major league career. She wears No. 20, his number when he played shortstop for the Yanks. She has been to Fenway Park, sat in the seats high above the famed Green Monster in left field and relived her father’s big moment in her mind.

But Caitlin Dent also has experienced a few big moments of her own with the Wolfpack softball team.

In her senior season, the centerfielder:

• Hit .303 with 14 home runs and 48 RBIs in 52 games.

• Hit a game-winning two-run homer against Virginia Tech in the semifinals of the ACC championship.

• Drove in the only run Saturday in a 1-0 victory over Florida State that gave the Wolfpack the 2013 ACC championship.

Dent also had the winning, walk-off hit on the Wolfpack’s Senior Day against North Carolina. A three-run homer. To left.

“It’s unbelievable,” Dent said this week, breaking into a big smile. “It’s everything I’ve been praying for – this whole senior season. All I did last summer was work really hard and focus on having this season be my best season at State. It turned out to be an unbelievable season, for everybody.”

The Wolfpack’s championship was its first since 2006. N.C. State (33-18-1) begins play Friday in the NCAA Knoxville Regional against James Madison having won 12 consecutive games and 19 of the past 21.

“We have confidence, we have each other’s backs, we have chemistry,” Dent said. “We have a lot of heart on this team.”

The Wolfpack has gotten 26 homers from sophomore shortstop Renada Davis and sophomore right-hander Emily Weiman has gotten the job done on the mound. Dent has a team-leading 11 doubles and is second to Davis in hits, homers and RBIs.

“She’s been very calm and collected in the (batter’s) box,” Davis said. “She’s become that hitter we need and has stepped up to that senior role.”

Dent hit .230 as a sophomore with three home runs, and .213 last season with four homers. But first-year coach Shawn Rychcik was convinced Dent had one of the best swings on the team.

“I told my wife, ‘I’m surprised she’s never hit better and I’ve got to find a way to get it out of her,’ ” Rychcik said.

Dent said only a few subtle changes were made. The coaches, she said, worked with her on more effectively using her top hand and driving the ball.

“That was basically it,” she said. “They brought the confidence back in me. They believed in me and have been by my side, pushing me and encouraging me. They’ve made me the player I used to be.”

Dent was a softball star at Park Vista High in Lake Worth, Fla., the school that produced Wolfpack shortstop Trea Turner. She also was a recruited volleyball player – once her favorite sport – but was considered too short to be a setter in college.

Dent’s twin brother, Cody, plays infield and outfield for the Florida Gators and also wears No. 20. Even more has been expected from him because of his baseball lineage, much like Vanderbilt’s Mike Yastrzemski, whose father, Carl, was the Red Sox left fielder when Bucky Dent’s big fly cleared the Monster that October day in ’78.

“There’s a little bit more pressure on my brother,” Caitlin said. “For me, it’s also, ‘You’re Bucky Dent’s daughter, you’re supposed to be good.’ ”

Caitlin Dent said she has seen the replay of her father’s big homer “a million times” but had not been to Fenway until two years ago, when the Wolfpack was playing at Boston College. The team was on a tour of the park when the tour guide was told one of the players was, yes, Bucky Dent’s daughter.

“He went, ‘Oh, my God, you really need to leave,’ ” she said, laughing. “He was kidding,” she thinks.

Caitlin’s big homer on Senior Day – with her parents in the stands at Dail Softball Stadium – gave the Wolfpack an 11-8 victory over the Tar Heels. It was her second homer of the game and she also had a diving catch..

“I guess it runs in the family,” Rychcik said.

Dent earned a degree in sport management and has a job this summer as an intern for the Tampa Yankees of the Florida State League. She missed N.C. State’s graduation ceremony Saturday – she was in Tallahassee, Fla., winning a championship.

Dent, a second-team All-ACC selection this season, was named to the ACC All-Tournament team. She goes into the NCAA tournament at her best, having hit .354 in the past 15 games with 10 homers and 25 RBIs.

The Wolfpack is the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Knoxville Regional. Tennessee, which twice beat N.C. State in February, is the host and top seed. Then again, Florida State was the top seed last week.

Dent’s senior season still hasn’t played out. As she put it, “We want to go as far as we can go.”

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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