Nov 30, 2021

This is an article about hitting mechanics but also intertwines themes of “redemption” & “second chances”. It has a FAIRY TALE ENDING!

An unseeded softball team referred to as “Cinderella” (UL) with it’s own “Cinderella” player (Soto) gets paired against her old team, LSU. UL, the mid-major “Cinderella” gets invited to the NCAA Baton Rouge Regionals “dance”, where its former softball coach departed to become the Head Softball Coach because of more resources. & “Cinderella” wins the Regional anyways & advances.

Then, in the “IF” game in SUPERS against Houston, “Cinderella”/Soto hits an “OPPO” bomb in the very 1st inning (WATCH VIDEO BELOW) and advances to the BIG DANCE (WORLD SERIES).

In the WCWS, she had the critical two-run RBI double off of the centerfield wall (WATCH VIDEO BELOW) to tie the game and force extra innings, when they beat the overall #1 national seed, and they all “live happily EVER AFTER”.

Yet, this is more than a story about a player seeking “redemption”; it’s also about a storied softball program who JUST A YEAR BEFORE had some hard luck and bad bounces in 2007 and were being “written off” by the naysayers who were predicting “doom & gloom” and the “end of the good times”.

In the article below, the local sports editor from Lafayette, LA. writes, “And that’s the point of this column: With it’s tradition, UL shouldn’t be losing to the likes of Houston and Sam Houston State in a post-season situation.”

But just like Soto and her Cinderella story, the Cajuns bounce back to make their 2nd WCWS under the Lotiefs in 2008, and then use that momentum to start a grass roots effort to build a new softball stadium (2010) and a new players’ locker room (2011) in order to try to “MATCH THE RESOURCES & FACILITIES with the legacy and tradition of the softball program”.

From 2010 through 2016, the Cajuns win 6 NCAA Regionals, 5 straight NCAA SUPER REGIONALS appearances (2012-2016) & another WCWS APPEARANCE (2014) & another major construction initiative (2016 indoor hitting facility). It too can LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER!


STEP #1 – take care of the 2008 season: Add to the core of returning starting players: catcher, Lana Bowers (Huffman, TX), 3B Melissa Verde (Beaumont, TX), outfielders, Katie Smith (Ruston, LA), Karli Hubbard (Lafayette, LA), Vallie Gaspard (Maurice, LA), & Holly Tankersly (Kirbyville, TX), incoming recruits & Voodoo travel ball teammates from the New Orleans, LA area, Ashley Brignac (pitcher) & Gabby Bridges (1B); and two in-state transfers: Brooke Broadhead (Lafayette, LA), McNeese/SS and Vanessa Soto, LSU/2B (San Diego, CA).

LISTEN TO VANESSA’s ACCOUNT ABOUT ALMOST FORGOING HER SENIOR SEASON, after playing the previous 2005, 2006, & 2007 seasons at L.S.U for Coach Yvette Girouard.


Let’s get to work & talk hitting and see what adjustments Vanessa made to “BUILD OPPO POWER THAT LEAD HER NEW TEAM TO THE WOMEN’S COLLEGE WORLD SERIES in 2008.

In talking to Vanessa, she told me, “before I couldn’t hit ANYTHING ON THE OUTSIDE HALF FOR POWER OR CONSISTENCY”. Let’s take a look at the before at LSU (2005, 2006, 2007) and then after at UL (2008).

The pitches are very similar; up and out. When she was at L.S.U. (VIDEO BELOW) on the up & out pitch – the result was a shallow, lazy pop-up to CF.

While Soto’s at-bat at UL (VIDEO BELOW) resulted in an “OPPO” home run against Houston in the 2008 Super Regionals in the bottom of the 1st inning in the “if necessary”, game 3, winner take all.

Attention to details makes the difference between winning & losing; those subtle adjustments effect the outcome from a lazy pop-up to a home run that changes the whole momentum of a SUPER REGIONAL series.
Lazy pop-up to CF.

Soto’s pelvis movement pattern at L.S.U. is “very low level” & does not match her talent & ability & athleticism; and it is so obvious to see and so easy to “fix”.

Her pelvis movement pattern explains WHY she was having considerable “trouble” with consistency on outside pitches and WHY she lacked any power to the opposite field.

While at L.S.U., Vanessa has NO (ZERO) pelvis load. She basically “steps” with her front foot to move forward. We can use the “white tie string” on her pants, right below her belly button as a landmark and reference for pelvis movement.

In her stance, she is basically upright – no hinge or tension in her pelvis.
In the middle frame, as she lifts her stride leg, her pelvis (center of mass) IMMEDIATELY starts going forward and open at the same time.
In the frame all the way on the left, which is at toe touch, as soon as her stride foot hits down, her pelvis continues to turn open and her hands are already past her back hip and she is “squishing the bug”.

That’s a recipe for struggling with pitches on the outside part of the zone and that’s the reason she had little to no power to the opposite field while at L.S.U.

Good news: it was an easy “fix”; learn to load and coil your pelvis BEFORE YOU ROTATE; especially for a player as talented, smart, inquisitive, hard working, competitive, softball savvy, with such great hand-eye coordination, exceptional understanding for the game, and who could anticipate what the next pitch was going to be.

At L.S.U. in 2007 Soto’s batting average was .280; the next year at UL with a better pelvis load: her batting average jumped to .333.

Let’s look at three frames of Vanessa’s swing at UL (1) STANCE, (2) as Soto lifts her stride leg which is about pitcher’s 12 o’clock, & (3) at toe touch before we compare her BEFORE & AFTER ADJUSTMENTS.

First adjustment. Let’s start with her stance. Soto is now in an open stance and she starts with her pelvis “hinged”.
When the pitcher is at 12 o’clock and Soto starts her leg lift, her pelvis “hinges” MORE, before she starts to “coil” her pelvis and she is “squaring” her pelvis by moving it towards home plate.
At toe touch, her pelvis has “rotated” but her hands and barrel are still “BACK” and the ball is approximately 12 feet away.
Because Soto is now starting in an open stance at UL, in the middle frame her pelvis is going from open to “square”, in other words — loading & coiling towards home plate while she is moving forward. While at L.S.U., she started “square” in her stance and in the middle frame, her pelvis is going in the “totally opposite direction” (away from home plate) and opening way too early as she shifts and it forces her hands and barrel forward going into toe touch. At UL at toe touch, her hands and barrel are still “back”.
Another opposite field home run that Vanessa hit during conference play.

She worked tirelessly during the regular season preparing for just one more “post-season opportunity”. What’s also great about that clip is Vanessa’s mother, Janet, is in the front row, right over her shoulder all the way from San Diego! That family was ALL IN, “bought in 100%”!

Vanessa Soto is from San Diego, CA and the daughter of Fabio Soto and Janet Foley. Vanessa coached both travel ball and college softball and headed up the softball division of BLAST bat sensors before heading back to the private financial industry.

A couple of transfers and a couple of recruits, a couple of simple mechanical “fixes” to gain “OPPO” power, getting a couple of “local” athletes to work hard & care about each other, and getting a Freshman pitcher (Brignac) to be at her best at the biggest moments allowed a softball program & a “Cinderella” to “keep on dancing” & live HAPPILY EVER AFTER!