Western Washington University softball player Alexie Levin has had two constants throughout her 12 years on the diamond — her father, Tom, and her bat.
While Levin was racking up hits and home runs — breaking records in the process — Tom was there before every game and tournament giving a pep talk to his daughter.
“It’s not about what I need to do,” Levin said in a phone interview. “It’s more motivation.”
Levin has grown into one of the best hitters in NCAA Division II softball, earning Great Northwest Athletic Conference Player of the Year last season for her efforts.
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She hit .424 last year while setting school records in home runs (10), RBI (47), total bases (103) and slugging percentage (.741) but Levin isn’t the type of player who’s going to let it go to her head.
“She can do it all and does it all well,” WWU coach Amy Suiter said in a phone interview.
And she’s consistent while she does it.
There’s rarely an off game for Levin and it’s the mentality she takes to the plate that’s been key for the junior, who plays first base, designated hitter and occasionally pitcher if called upon.
“Staying consistent is a tough thing to do offensively in this game,” Suiter said. “It’s her demeanor. She’s calm and has a lot of confidence, a quiet confidence.”
For Levin, it was her dad that’s helped her stay steady throughout her softball career.
“He taught me how to hit,” Levin said. “He was my first select coach and he’s helped coach teams along the way. He’s been an assistant or a hitting coach. He’s truly been there for me.”
WWU isn’t the only place Levin’s been able to make a name for herself. At Everett High School, she set nine school records, which led Levin to start looking at her college opportunities.
She started looking on the East Coast, because she wanted to go out of town. But after a few cross-country trips, Levin decided she loved Washington and wanted to stay there and chose WWU.
The Vikings couldn’t be happier.
It didn’t take long for Levin to make an impact. She hit .333 her first year, starting all 42 games.
“I don’t really know,” Levin said of how she was able to adjust to the college game so quickly. “I was just kind of like ‘It’s the same game I’ve been playing since I was 8.’ I just kept practicing and working hard. I was relaxed about it, not stressed about it. It’s the same game just at a higher level.”
Now as an upperclassman, Levin hopes to transfer that same relaxed personality to the seven incoming freshmen.
“In your freshman year, you didn’t know what to expect. You think ‘Oh I cant mess up.’ But it’s OK if you mess up,” Levin said. “Now that I’m older I’m more relaxed and I know what to expect and what the team expects. Knowing how you felt as a freshman, what you would want to know when you’re younger and helping out the younger ones who haven’t been there before. That’s one of the biggest things, making them feel part of the team.”
After all, Levin knows the newcomers are going to help take the pressure off her trying to repeat her performance from a record-breaking year.
And there’s plenty of talent to go around, not only from the freshmen but from the team as a whole.
Outfielder Autumn Isaacson returns after batting .400 last year, earning first-team all-GNAC honors in the process.
Third baseman Emma Blauser, second baseman Kali Patterson and designated hitter Jordan Walley will also make big contributions at the plate for a team that ranked eighth nationally in batting average last season
“We have a great offense,” Suiter said. “We just need to put it all together.”
The pitching staff will be shaken up a little from last season, as Jenna DeRosier departs for graduation. In her place as the primary starter is sophomore Aspen Ison, who had a 3.40 earned run average last year in 70 innings.
After finishing with a 17-36 record in 2012, the Vikings have improved in each of the past two seasons, falling just short of the West Regional last year after dropping two games in the GNAC Tournament.
It was inconsistency that doomed the Vikings last year, as they dropped several games they shouldn’t have. Suiter is hoping that isn’t the case this year.
“We have high hopes. We have a lot of newcomers, a lot of athletic talent and a young pitching staff. I think depth is going to be one of the strongest points of this team,” Suiter said. “We just need to do a better job of executing early. That’s my hopes going into these first games.”
WWU starts its season Saturday, Feb. 7, in Hawaii to face Chaminade.
“We have so many very talented people. We just need to put it together and work as as a team,” Levin said.