Gators play at different volumes
By STEVE LEE
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 24, 2001
LAND O'LAKES -- Sometimes before practice, Erica Skillman will turn on the microphone in the Land O'Lakes press box and sing the national anthem.
"She can bust somebody's eardrums," Gators coach Jerry English said. "She can't carry a song in somebody's lunch box."
Michelle Hausman -- nicknamed "yackety-yack, because she never talks," Skillman said -- would never try such a stunt.
"I do talk," Hausman countered. "I just never talk during the games."
In most aspects of softball, Hausman and Skillman are complete opposites. As hitters, though, they have a lot in common.
Hausman, the Gators' cleanup hitter, averages .333 with 19 runs scored and 10 RBI. Skillman, who bats fifth, is hitting .338 with 13 runs scored and 19 RBI.
"If I'm on, most likely I score," said Ashley Patton, who bats third and has scored a team-high 21 runs. "They're the fourth and fifth batters. They've got to be good."
Actually, Hausman, a sophomore leftfielder, and Skillman, a junior second baseman, struggled in the first six games of the season. But English never entertained the notion of pinch hitting for either player, figuring they would work out of it.
Both are confident they can move baserunners over. But during their early-season struggles, Skillman didn't handle the pressure well when English flip-flopped her with Hausman in the lineup. Batting fourth for two games, she failed to drive in a run.
"I did horrible," Skillman recalled. "I went up there thinking, "Oh my God. I'm fourth."'
Hausman said it made no difference to her as she had seven hits in two games.
While their productivity is similar, Skillman and Hausman could not approach the game more differently.
"Michelle's a very, very quiet person," English said. "Erica's the insane one."
Hausman, who batted .423 with 16 RBI and 13 runs as a freshman, is self-assured and positive she can get on base at least a couple of times per game. But she admitted she "could be a better leader if I talked more."
Talking, English said, is what makes Skillman a motivator. "She talks to the other kids and gets them up when they make a mistake. She's a wonderful asset to the team."
"Her cheers in the dugout; she's the loudest one," teammate Amber DeYoung said. "I am very loud," admits Skillman. "I'll do anything to get (her teammates') spirits up."
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