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South Western's Kaitlyn Chell discusses moving from third to first in the batting order and playing catcher. Matt Allibone

The junior catcher moved from third to first in the order for South Western three games ago

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It's not everyday you see a team put arguably its best power hitter in the leadoff spot.

Most coaches prefer to put their sluggers in the middle of the order and let quicker players who can draw walks bat first. But South Western softball head coach Megan Pilarcik has taken a different approach the last few games.

"I'm a believer in getting our stronger batters the most at-bats," Pilarcik said. "I'll move my lineup around sometimes to find the hotter batters and get them up there."

That's why Pilarcik decided to move junior catcher Kaitlyn Chell from third to first in the batting order three games ago. So far, the move has worked out pretty well for both Chell and the Mustangs.

After starting the season 0-6, the Mustangs have won their last three games with Chell leading the surge. The junior went 3-for-5 with a home run and four RBIs in South Western's 11-3 win over West York Friday. In her last two games, Chell is 6-for-9 with two home runs and eight RBIs.

While she admitted changing spots in the order wasn't easy, Chell said she's starting to get used to her new role.

"It's different but I don't hate it," Chell said. "As a middle (of the order) hitter you can get feedback from teammates and ask them about the pitcher. As a leadoff hitter, the mindset changed because now I have to watch (the pitcher) and get feedback myself and inform my teammates."

Helping her teammates prepare for opposing pitchers is just one of the new roles Chell has taken on this year. With the Mustangs rebuilding after graduating six seniors from last season's team, Chell has become one of the team's leaders.

Already a three-year starter, Chell said being a leader has been difficult, but she's trying to embrace the challenge. According to her, the toughest part of the season has been accepting that she's the player most of her teammates go to for advice.

"They all look up to me, and if someone's having a bad game I know I can talk to them and they'll listen to me," Chell said. "The con (of being a leader) is that when I'm not performing no one is there to get me up, which is never good."

Chell added that senior shortstop Bailey Moses has helped her carry the leadership burden, and Pilarcik said that Chell is "doing a good job" helping out the younger players.

With another year left after this one, Chell said she's glad to have taken on a more vocal role this season because now she'll be prepared for it as a senior. Pilarcik added "it's really nice to know" she still has another year of coaching the star catcher.

While the seventh-year coach isn't sure how much longer Chell will bat leadoff, she's confident the junior will continue to be a standout player at the plate and in the field.

"She's talented and she hits the ball hard every time," Pilarcik said. "She does a very nice job behind the plate, so I'd have to say she stands out as both (a hitter and fielder)."

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