A home run got Rachel Sabourin going last season and Eaglecrest’s sweet-swinging shortstop hasn’t stopped since.
She scuffled at the plate for nearly all of the 2015 season until a solo homer in the 10th inning of the regular season finale lifted the Raptors to a 1-0 win over Mullen and sparked them into the Class 5A playoffs.
Since then, Sabourin has sent softballs over outfield fences at a staggering rate for coach Yvette Hendrian’s team and finds herself tied for the lead in Colorado, regardless of classification, with seven bombs after just 12 games.
“It’s been one heck of a year, that’s for sure,” Sabourin said with a laugh Sept. 20 after she went deep in Eaglecrest’s 20-0, three-inning win against Overland.
That’s putting it mildly.
The seven home runs — a total that’s one more than Aurora top teams Cherokee Trail and Smoky Hill have combined — put her in a four-way tie atop 5A and five-way deadlock in Colorado, while she leads 5A in RBI with 27, sits second with an absurd 1.527 slugging percentage and owns the fifth-best on-base percentage in 5A at .717.
Throw in a .639 batting average that’s 30 points higher than any other player in the city with 25 at-bats or more and Sabourin is having an offensive season rarely seen in Aurora or anywhere else. And she’s doing it against top competition, as the Raptors have had a loaded early-season schedule during their 10-2 start.
Hendrian, who often throws batting practice to her team, has seen the pop Sabourin packs into a compact 5-foot-6 frame.
“I knew she has always has that power because she has racked a case of softballs over the fence in batting practice,” Hendrian said.
“She has come out gangbusters for us which has set the tone for our program.”
Jason Quimby — who has coached Sabourin for years in club softball and had her on his 16U Colorado Angels squad this summer — also isn’t surprised in the least, especially after Sabourin won MVP of a camp at the University of Florida over the summer and has already piqued the interest of several Division I programs.
“Rachel has worked tirelessly on hitting and become very strong over the last couple of years,” Quimby said.
“Match that with a great approach, tremendous back side power, elite hitting fundamentals that are used by the top collegiate hitters in the nation — and a deep knowledge of a good swing — and you can see an elite hitter that can make an offense go.”
Sabourin gave up competitive gymnastics and cheerleading at the age of 10 to focus on softball — where she relished the team aspect of the sport — and she’s fully immersed herself in the game since.
Besides regular hitting lessons, she studies film of each of her at-bats after games and compares it to some of the top college hitters in the country. Sabourin also takes small drills from instructional videos put out by college coaches and works on them as well.
Sabourin can tell the difference when she’s at the plate now, especially with the ball flying over the fence as often as it has been.
“I used to be more of a contact and speed hitter, but now I’ve developed more power,” Sabourin said. “I’ve been able to see the ball a lot better and I go into the box knowing what I need to look for and what I need to do to be productive for the team.”
Sabourin, who has multi-homer games against Rock Canyon and Wheat Ridge so far, has picked up the power void Hendrian thought she might have when junior slugger Kailey Wilson — who homered four times last season — suffered a knee injury during the summer that put her out for the entire season.
Wilson’s massive power caused opponents to intentionally walk her on many occasions last season. That hasn’t happened yet for Sabourin, who has a lineup around her that’s hitting well enough for that strategy to backfire.
The Raptors have regulars Brandi Morris (.537), Anna Keefe (.440) and Hannah Jensen (.400) all hitting .400 or better with several others close behind.
“I’ve gotten walked a couple of times intentionally, but I know the girls behind me can pick me up,” Sabourin said.
As good as the lineup is right now, Hendrian wishes she had the fearsome Wilson in the order to pair with Sabourin.
“It makes me sick to my stomach to think what it would’ve been like to have both hitters in the lineup this season,” she said. “I will just wait patiently for that next year.”
Despite the graduation of nine key seniors, Eaglecrest is just as competitive as its been in recent years behind a new cast.
With quality wins over the likes of Douglas County, Brighton and Wheat Ridge thus far, the Raptors feel like they have a good shot to contend for the Centennial League championship and perhaps vie for the program’s second 5A state championship.
“We’ve worked our tails off this whole season and we all contribute one or two different things to this team,” Sabourin said. “We compete in practices and games and it’s cool knowing that we have other people to push us on the team. It’s been a fun year and we all have big goals at the end.”
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel