When Emily Epifanio steps onto the softball field, she can’t stop smiling.
She plays the game with a young girl’s enthusiasm that belies the seriousness of her game.
“Actually one of the girls, Haley Kruger, told me that I need to be more intense and stop smiling because I’m supposed to be this bada** catcher,” Epifanio said.
Don’t get the wrong impression of the sophomore catcher though. Through all that smiling is a hitter who is feared by opposing pitchers and coaches.
Take, for example, the Warhawks’ doubleheader against UW-Eau Claire April 17. In the first game of the twinbill, Epifanio made a huge impression on the Blugolds.
In her first at-bat in the first inning, Epifanio blasted a two-run moon shot over the flag pole in center field. Three innings later, she rifled a solo shot over the left field fence.
For the rest of the day, Epifanio was given a free pass to first base from the Blugolds’ pitchers, finishing with a total of six walks.
Head coach Brenda Volk said ever since the ’Hawks returned from their spring break trip to Florida, Epifanio has been one of the ’Hawks’ most consistent hitters.
“She’s definitely had a good year against conference foes,” Volk said. “I think they’re a little more scared to pitch to her.”
Opponents’ fear is well-justified.
Since March 31, Epifanio has hit seven home runs (tied for best in the WIAC) and has hit .463 with .553 on-base percentage. She is also tied for second overall in the WIAC in slugging percentage with a .747 clip.
Tearing apart Division III pitching is nothing new for Epifanio, who smacked six home runs a season ago. But she credits her work in the offseason as being the biggest reason for climb into the upper ranks of hitters in the WIAC this season.
“I ran a lot on numerous days of the week,” Epifanio said. “Getting in better shape has definitely helped my hitting. I push myself a lot harder this year than I did last year.”
Not only does Epifanio’s effort show in her batting stats, but in her team’s record as well.
The ’Hawks have won four straight and sit in second place in the WIAC with a 9-3 record (24-6 overall).
Epifanio pointed to the team’s matchup with UW-River Falls this Sunday as critical to the team’s chances of garnering the top seed in the WIAC tournament.
“This weekend we’re really focused on winning out and taking all four games,” Epifanio said.
The ’Hawks are also on the road against UW-Stout Saturday.
“If we do that, then we host the conference tournament and it’d be awesome to have a fan base here and not to travel. These games are important.”