Sophomore Second Baseman Toro Leads AJHS with .620 Batting Average, 16 Steals
By Daniel Dullum
Left-handed slap hitting is nothing new to fastpitch softball. Elexis Toro is quickly making the approach a specialty of her own.
Toro, Apache Junction’s sophomore second baseman-pitcher, uses slap-hitting to provide the spark at the top of the Lady Prospectors’ batting order. She’s hitting .620, with an on-base percentage of .671, scored 39 runs and leads the Lady Prospectors with 16 stolen bases (in 20 attempts).
Besides her slap-hitting prowess, Toro said her success is the residue of hard work.
“I do batting practice every Wednesday. Most of my batting, I don’t think about ‘I hit this,’ or ‘do this,’ I just think of making contact first, then try to beat it out. I know I’m fast enough, and if I get a hit there, I can beat it out.
“It’s more about positional hitting, and which side of the field I want to hit the ball.”
The main key, Toro says, is the precise footwork needed to effectively execute the slap hit.
“It’s a lot of making sure that your feet can’t rush, or else you pull out of the (batter’s) box,” Toro explained. “But you also have to have your foot at an angle where you can hit the ball instead of pulling your whole body out of the box.”
Toro used to switch-hit, but Coach Ed Matlosz said her focus has been shifted to strictly hitting left-handed.
“There’s no reason to switch-hit right now, because in this game, it’s about speed,” Matlosz said. “And she has the speed, the slap ability and the bunting ability, which we’ve been working on. Lexi is a very tough lead-off hitter.”
On utilizing speed and the slap hit, Matlosz said, “This is an area we try to specialize in, and we look for the best people out there to get to the top of the mountain where we want to be.”
“Sometimes, if we play a team where I’m not going to be stressed with the pitching, I’ll be like, OK. If this pitch is here, I want to make sure I hit it to this side of the field, or to this position, and try to work on positional hitting.”
Which bring up this question: When everyone in the ballpark knows what you’re up to, how does a slapper cross up the defense?
“If the defense is playing higher, sometimes I’ll look for higher pitches,” Toro said. “Even with a high pitch, there’s a good chance I can pop it over the infielders. With slappers, it’s all about keeping your hands higher on the bat. Sometimes, they’ll try to throw high and inside on you, but that’s where you can get in front of it and keep your hands higher, then level them out.”
“The key, too, is how the defense plays you,” Matlosz said. “Elexis is getting to where when the defense comes in on her, she has enough pop to put it over their heads.”
But, Toro cautions, “Just don’t pop it up. You have no chance of beating it out.”
Matlosz said that Toro shares her knowledge on slap-hitting with her teammates.
“I bring the stuff that my batting coach tells me, so when they want to slap, I kind of incorporate her ideas into helping them,” Toro said. “I still work on it now. It’s been a year-and-a-half to two years.”
Toro insists, though, she’s not quite ready to start her own slap-hitting school.
“No!” she said, laughing.
Matlosz quickly added, “She will one day!”
The Lady Prospectors completed a home-and-home sweep of Black Canyon Region foe Washington, defeating the Rams 10-0 on April 3 at home and 8-0 two days later in Phoenix.
“You can’t underestimate anybody,” Matlosz said. “It’s about preparation for the battle. I told the girls that they’re the regional champs until somebody knocks them off, and they better come out prepared, and have the intensity of a regional champ and play like one, because they’re not going to give it to you.
In AJ’s first win over Washington, Denae Preuhs had a two-run triple, Zoe Siegel had a two-run single and Priscilla Saldate went 3-for-3 with a double and two runs batted in.
“And our bunt game was excellent. Coach Bill (Wilson) called some good squeeze plays, (Washington) threw the ball away and we put some pressure on their defense and caught them off guard.”
Mikayla Gilgert (9-3) struck out 10 without a walk, and Tristan Greer struck out two of the three batters she faced in a scoreless fifth inning.
Gilgert left the game after taking a foul tip off her shin.
“When we’re playing well, we’re kind of scary,” Matlosz said. “When Mikayla is throwing like she did today, it’s hard to hit. I heard their coach say their girls wanted to face some faster pitching, now they got it.
“Mouse’s ball is really moving now, and Coach Hank (Duffy) has been working with her on getting her movement back where it should be as she gets ready for college.
“Tristen’s form looked much better. She’s got her rhythm back a little bit more and looked good, she was throwing the ball pretty hard.”
The Lady Prospectors (16-6 overall, 5-0 region), ranked No. 8 in the AIA 4A power poll, begin the week with a key power point game Monday at Casa Grande Union, followed by a Tuesday-Thursday home-and-home set against El Mirage Dysart.
The top eight teams in the power poll automatically qualify for the 4A playoffs.
Photo above: Elexis Toro of Apache Junction, a successful practitioner of left-handed slap-hitting, is enjoying a remarkable season hitting leadoff for the Lady Prospectors. (Photo by Bill Wooster)