tampabay.com

Settled, not shaky

Samantha Boggs is a solid leadoff hitter for Springstead, as a well as a speedy outfielder.

By KELLIE DIXON
Published April 13, 2007


SPRING HILL - Springstead junior rightfielder Samantha Boggs can't forget the pinky promise she made to coach Craig Swartout earlier this season.

After a poor performance against Hernando, she promised her coach that the next time she has two strikes against her, she'll just choke up on the bat and put the ball in play.

And most of the time, she does. She just crosses her fingers before she swings - a superstition she has had for quite some time - and makes it happen. Sometimes the leadoff hitter, who bats .300, gets on base simply because of her pure speed. Either way, she does her best to keep her end of the bargain.

Boggs also keeps a promise to herself - a promise to get better. She has done that, too. From anxious slap-hitting as a freshman to confident base knocks as a junior, Boggs has more patience in the batter's box. The sight of a pitcher coming at her still stirs her stomach, but she just focuses on the ball. She takes a few pitches so she can get a feel for the pitcher and so her teammates can study up. Then she picks one and follows through.

"Before I'd go after the first pitch," Boggs said. "Now Swartout has me waiting for the perfect pitch."

In the outfield, Boggs focuses on every flyball with Swartout's instructions - "two hands" - ringing in her ears. She doesn't gamble with one-handed catches anymore.

Boggs has improved to the point where she is a catalyst for the Eagles. Her speed alone makes her a valuable offensive and defensive weapon.

"She's just so fast that every time she puts the ball in play, she makes it hard on the defense," Swartout said. "Her batting average might not show it, but a lot of times she gets on errors because the girls have to hurry their throws.

And in the outfield, her quickness limits base runners. For instance, she can hold a runner at second by chasing down and fielding would-be triples.

The only problem Boggs has is her arm.

A few years ago, she separated her shoulder and partially tore her rotator cuff during a basketball game. Because of her young age, the doctors decided against surgery and occasionally her left shoulder - her throwing arm - will slip out of socket. The injury affected her arm strength, and that's why she plays rightfield instead of left. She heats and ices it, and spends as much time as she can strengthening it.

"Hopefully next year I can get centerfield," Boggs said. "I've been working out my arm."

Swartout said that's the plan for next year.

"I can't tell you how excited I am to see how good she's going to be next year," Swartout said. "She just keeps getting better."

Kellie Dixon can be reached at kdixon@sptimes.com or (352) 544-9480.