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A balanced pair

Softball coach Ken Eriksen has worked hard to instill the team-first mentality among his players. With another good recruiting class this season, the depth of the team has limited playing time for some of last year’s starters.

Even with the split in playing time, Ashley Bullion and Danielle Urbanik understand their roles on the team and are embracing the team mentality. Bullion started at first base for most of the season in 2006, and Urbanik was a part of the pitching rotation last year.

“The great thing about both of them is that they have both bought into the team philosophy,” Eriksen said. “They are comfortable in their roles because they are both team players.”

This season, however, Bullion and Urbanik have become a deadly combo for the Bulls. Urbanik has added more power to the lineup with three home runs, 20 RBIs, a .359 batting average and a .511 slugging average.

Even though Bullion has 16 RBIs this season, she starts at first base for her skills with the glove. Bullion has a .991 fielding percentage this season and has been a bright spot in an otherwise inconsistent defense.

“Most of our struggles this season have been bad luck,” Bullion said. “Because if you are going to boot a ball, it’s going to happen. Nobody is perfect.”

Bullion doesn’t have a problem coming into a game in the sixth or seventh inning for defense. She will be the first person to admit Urbanik brings the pop to the lineup.

“It’s not a big deal to me because she is a strict powerhitter and I’m a placement hitter,” Bullion said. “Sometimes I struggle with my hitting and she doesn’t so he puts me in for defense, but that’s OK.”

Whether it’s pinch-hitting late in a game or starting at first base, Urbanik is the kind of player that doesn’t care about stats or position, just as long as she helps the team win.

“As long as I can do anything to help get wins, then I will do it,” Urbanik said. “If it takes her coming in late to play first, it doesn’t matter to me.”

Urbanik had a 2-0 record in three starts last season in limited time in the circle for the Bulls. With the depth of the rotation, Urbanik has cherished the opportunity to concentrate on improving her skills defensively at first base.

In 39 games last season, Urbanik made the most of her time at the plate, tallying five home runs and 11 RBIs in 80 at-bats. Urbanik has already surpassed her previous-season RBI total and is on pace to tie or break her personal best in home runs.

“Danielle can dominate a game with her bat at any time during a game right now,” Eriksen said. “We knew what kind of a power-hitter she was during the recruiting process, and she has carried that over to college. She has hit some of the longest home runs I’ve ever seen.”

Urbanik said she’s happy to not have the pressure that comes with being a pitcher. Eriksen said moving Urbanik out of the rotation is a big reason for her success at the plate.

“She pitched for us in her first two (to) three seasons and now she’s not pitching, and it allows her to focus on what her main job is, which is a power hitter and RBI (hitter),” Eriksen said. “So that is working out well for her so far this year.”