JMU softball is off to a 23-6 record to start the 2019 season, and one of the reasons behind its success is junior infielder/catcher Kierstin Roadcap. While she anchors one of the best pitching rotations in the country, she’s most well-known on the team for her presence.
“She’s more than a catcher for us, she’s the heart and soul of this team,” head coach Loren LaPorte said.
So far in her career, Roadcap has played in 124 games and has compiled a .284 batting average, hitting 14 home runs and 70 RBIs in her JMU career. Roadcap has started every game this season, batting .256 and hitting three home runs and 21 RBIs.
Last season, Roadcap was forced to move to first base due to an elbow injury that limited her ability to throw. While it was difficult for her to adjust to the new position, her previous experience playing first base in high school made the switch easier.
“It’s not fun having what you love to do more than anything in the world be taken away from you due to something you can’t control, and injuries just happen,” Roadcap said. “So it was really hard not to be able to be back there and help my team back there because that’s what I love to do and that’s all I’ve really ever done.”
After dealing with the injury, Roadcap said she almost cried when she got word that she could resume her catching duties. Now that she has returned to her primary position, Roadcap hasn’t missed a beat, starting every game behind the plate this season.
“I just loved catching ever since I was a little girl,” Roadcap said. “I was always very hyper and just needed to be involved in every play. So, anywhere else on the field, I was kind of bored … I was so happy when I could start catching again and working with my pitchers.”
One of the pitchers in the rotation that Roadcap has caught for is redshirt senior pitcher/infielder Megan Good. During her freshman season, Roadcap’s skill increased because of how Good pitched. Since then, their relationship has grown.
“Kierstin is the type of girl that’d do anything for you on or off the field. I have a lot of respect for her for that,” Good said. “If I need a catcher late at night, if I want to go work on some spins or anything like that, she’s always there. It’s always a yes from her, and I can’t thank her enough for all she does for me and all she does for this program.”
The relationship between the two has evolved since being at JMU. Both players recounted how then head coach Mickey Dean told Roadcap if she wanted to play her freshman season, she’d have to learn how to catch Good’s lethal riseball.
“I remember when coach Dean was here … had me scoot up, because we’re at 43 feet, to 35-40ish feet and told me to throw the ball as hard as I can,” Good said. “He looks at her and goes, ‘You better catch it,’ and she just learned from then on.”
Roadcap has the responsibility of handling the entire pitching staff — something she takes seriously. While she was at first base last season, she talked to the pitchers about their pitching styles and their gameplans.
“Being a catcher and a pitcher, just knowing how strong your relationship has to be because you're the battery, I think that we all read each other’s minds, honestly,” Roadcap said.
She knows how to talk and catch for the entire staff and doesn’t want to leave the bullpen unless everything is perfect. LaPorte said Roadcap does an exceptional job at balancing the different styles of the rotation.
Roadcap has matured as a catcher to the point that she’ll go to the circle to talk with one of the pitchers, which Laporte wanted her to do for a while. She benefits from hanging with them off the field to help build their chemistry.
“Just a lot of eating,” Roadcap said. “We love to eat, but just hanging out and doing things that each other likes, we don’t all like the same things, but just taking time to really get to know them on a deeper level… Knowing if you don’t have a good relationship with them, it’s not going to work on the field.”
Roadcap has quickly become a player who everybody admires in the locker room. LaPorte acknowledges Roadcap’s impact in the locker room and on the field.
“Everybody feels comfortable — not just the pitchers, but the whole defense feels comfortable back there with her,” LaPorte said. “She communicates every single pitch. When someone makes a mistake, Kierstin is always the one to pick them up.”
After Roadcap’s injury, one of the biggest challenges the coaching staff continues to face is how to limit her workload as the season goes on. The coaches have tried to limit Roadcap’s bullpen sessions and give her days off — something Roadcap is not a fan of.
“If I’m not back [behind the plate] I’m upset,” Roadcap said. “I just recently had two days off this past week … I don’t like that. I want to be back there. I want to be able to catch them.”
Contact Jason Clampitt at email@example.com. For more softball coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter at @TheBreezeSports.