The OC grad finishes her sophomore year at Pacific as the national leader in stolen bases for NCAA Division III softball

by: COURTESY PACIFIC UNIVERSITY - Rachel Roberts (left) finished her sophomore season of softball at Pacific University with a school record 47 stolen bases and a Northwest Conference-leading .468 batting average. The 47 stolen bases is the best in the nation for NCAA Division III for 2014.Former Oregon City High School athletic standout Rachel Roberts is making a name for herself in athletics at Pacific University.

Roberts is a sophomore at Pacific, where she is studying to become a pharmacist and playing second base for the Boxers’ softball team.

She has taken the Northwest Conference and the nation by storm this spring, with her offensive play.

The Boxers finished their season April 19, losing to Linfield 8-0 in the championship game of the Northwest Conference Softball Tournament. It was the first time a Pacific softball team had every reached a conference tournament final in softball, and the Boxers finished with an overall record of 26-12 with the loss.

Roberts has had a phenomenal sophomore season, finishing up with a conference-leading 58 hits, .468 batting average and 46 stolen bases — out of 50 attempts.

The 46 stolen bases is a school record, bettering the old single-season record of 38, set by current assistant coach Stephanie Henningsen (formerly Vanoudenhaegen) in 2011.

Through the Boxers’ final game, Roberts was the NCAA Division III leader in stolen bases for the 2014 season, and she will likely finish the season No. 1 in Division III. Through play April 20, Kayla Malkos of Virginia Wesleyan College was No. 2 in Division III, with 38 stolen bases out of 40 attempts.

The stolen base leader for NCAA Division I through play April 20 was Olivia Watkins of Western Kentucky, with 49 stolen bases out of 52 attempts.

The leader for NCAA Division II was Chelsea Hall of Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina, with 51, out of 51 attempts.

Roberts was also successful on 20-of-21 stolen base attempts as a freshman, when she finished with a .331 batting average. If she continues at her current pace, her career total for stolen bases will likely be a school-record mark that lasts for decades.

Roberts finished her sophomore season with 58 hits in 124 at bats. She only struck out nine times. She was second on her team in runs scored, with 33.

“She’s fast, she plays the game hard and she has a lot of desire,” Pacific head coach Tim Hill said of Roberts, who batted second in the Boxer lineup.

Hill has coached college and/or Amateur Softball Association fastpitch softball the past 35 seasons and he says that Roberts is one of the most gifted baserunners he has ever had.

“I’ve seen a few really good [baserunners] in my 35 years, and Rachel’s one of the top three or four that’s been able to rack up numbers like she has,” Hill said.”She’s talented, she’s very coachable and she learns quickly.

“She’s also a good hitter. You can’t steal that many bases without getting on base. She bunts, she slaps and she hits. She’s made big strides this year in her short game.”

Hill says that after losing three of his top four pitchers to injuries before the season started, he anticipated a “mediocre year,” but the team overachieved this season because of the competitiveness and determination of Roberts and her teammates.

“She’s had a big part in our success,” Hill said. “Her stats speak for themselves. You have 47 stolen bases, it generates a lot of offense. We’ve had a lot of games where we’ve come from behind, and she’s started a lot of our rallies.”

Hill says that he gives Roberts the steal sign on around 90 percent of her stolen base attempts, although he says she has the “green light” to steal on her own.

Hill says that Roberts has been successful at stealing bases, both because she gets a good jump off the bag and because “she is really fast.”

“She has mastered the jump off first base,” said Hill. “She’s very quick off the base, but she doesn’t leave too early. The umpires know her and they watch to see that she doesn’t leave early, but Rachel’s only been called out once for leaving early.”

Asked if Roberts has a career in softball after college, Hill said, “It’s tough, when you’re playing Division III. But if she continues to grow over the next few year’s, anything’s possible.”

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