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UT Martin's Kaci Fuller Quietly One Of Nation's Top Hitters

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(Photo by UT Martin)

In high school, Kaci Fuller began to realize the true skills she possessed as a hitter. The daughter of Jody, a 1998 draft pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks and member of the University of Tennessee-Martin Hall of Fame, and Amy, a former head softball coach at UTM, Fuller quickly became known for her team-leading batting average in high school.

During her sophomore year at Huntingdon High School in Tennessee, she posted a .505 batting average, six home runs and 44 RBIs. As a junior, Fuller batted .687 with nine doubles, 12 triples and six home runs en route to earning recognition on the 2019 All-West Tennessee Team.

After her senior season was canceled by Covid, she committed to play for the Skyhawks and immediately made an impact. Fuller earned a spot on the All-Ohio Valley Conference Second Team after posting a batting average of .382 as a freshman. She followed up that performance as a sophomore with a .388 batting average and a .429 on-base percentage. Quickly making a name for herself in the OVC, Fuller paced a talented, yet small program that improved to a conference championship contender under head coach Brian Dunn.

But, despite recording a hit nearly 40% of the time during her first two seasons of college softball, Fuller still felt like there was more she could do to improve her performance at the plate.

“What can I do to grow what I've learned from my parents and learn from someone else as well?” Fuller thought.

She had never sought out a hitting coach or hitting lessons before last offseason. Her parents would help coach her as a slapper in high school, and she would return home every few weeks in college for advice and lessons.

Before this year, with a smaller team—and injuries ultimately cutting down the roster to 14 players—Fuller wanted to take her swing to the next level and figure out how to “enjoy hitting more.”

“I think the season this year has been me trying to be myself, but also having fun while I'm doing it,” Fuller said.

She and her parents found a local hitting coach that she has gone to once a week since the end of last season. Fuller wanted to slow down her approach and mitigate midseason slumps that had hindered her in the past. Each time Fuller steps into the batter’s box, she takes a deep breath and turns her mind off. As someone who can get overwhelmed by thinking nonstop, getting in her own head before the pitch is even thrown, it’s better for Fuller’s mind to go blank and focus on the situation at hand: slap hit to the gaps, bunt, ground ball up the middle, swing away.

She tells herself to stay through the ball, which she’s struggled with before. Then, sometimes she’ll hum her walk-up song to help her calm down.

Then, she remembers what her hitting coach has taught her. The offseason was a time for Fuller to work on myriad aspects of her offensive approach. From where her hands and feet were in the box to staying through the ball, Fuller made sure everything was ironed out before the start of her junior year.

“We worked on, firstly, the fundamentals of keeping my bat back and going straight to the ball,” Fuller said.

The revamp of Fuller’s swing has catapulted her to the top of national hitting statistics. Though the Skyhawks are reeling from injuries and experiencing a down year, Fuller currently ranks 26th in the country in batting average and is one of just 67 batters with an average over .400. She’s currently ranked 50th in the nation with a .738 slugging percentage, one that jumped 235 points from last year.

All the work she's put in has her swing in a more compact place and her mind at rest in the box.

“If I start hitting in a slump, I can get out of it because I know adversity comes and goes,” Fuller said. “You just have to beat that adversity.”

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