Batter Up: Falkenberry hits ’em out, drives ’em in

Before stepping into the batter’s box, Erin Falkenberry draws an “E” in the dirt while standing in the on-deck circle.

The junior first baseman doesn’t classify herself as superstitious, but the ritual has paid big dividends for her.

Falkenberry recently set Butler’s career RBI record (109) and currently holds records for career slugging percentage (.556) and career home runs (30). The slugger is also tied for most home runs in a single season (11).

“[Falkenberry] doesn’t look like she would be a big power hitter,” sophomore pitcher Jenny Esparza said. “So it’s almost surprising how she hits with so much power. Her swing is so smooth and effortless.”

Falkenberry’s teammates and coach typically uses the word “power” to describe her game.

Earlier this season in a game at Detroit, Falkenberry blasted two home runs in her first two at bats. Her teammates were stunned when Detroit pitched to her during her third time up.

Not surprisingly, Falkenberry smashed another homer, putting the finishing touches on an 11-1 win.

“As she was rounding third base, she was covering her mouth trying not to laugh,” Butler left fielder Lauren McNulty said. “I think she felt bad that we were beating them so badly and didn’t want to rub it in by celebrating.”

Falkenberry has had her fair share of home runs and big hits, but goes about her business in a humble manner.

“I feel like I can’t smile because I don’t’ want to come off as cocky or confident,” Falkenberry said.

McNulty recognizes Falkenberry’s sportsmanship and humilty.

“She doesn’t showboat, even though she has so much talent,” McNulty said. “She’s coachable and easy to get along with—a coach’s dream.”

McNulty is more than just a teammate to Falkenberry—she is also her roommate. The two have lived with or near one another since they were freshmen.

“It’s nice when we have 6:30 a.m. practices or 6 a.m. weights,” McNulty said as she laughed. “After a long night of studying, it helps to have someone else there to make sure you’re awake.”

The two roommates have helped lead the Bulldogs to a 26-18 record and first place in the Horizon League.

Entering his first season at Butler and his first as a college coach, Hall was unfamiliar with the Butler squad he had inherited—unfamiliar with nearly everyone but Falkenberry, who had played for Hall for four seasons at Pendleton (Ind.) Heights High School.

“I had always looked up to him in elementary and middle school and knew that I wanted to play for him,” Falkenberry said.

Upon Jeanne Rayman’s resignation as Butler head coach last season, Falkenberry immediately made a phone call to Hall, urging him to apply for the job.

Hall took her advice and in July 2010, he was hired as Butler head softball coach.

“When I got word, I ran around the house screaming,” Falkenberry said. “He is by far the best coach I’ve ever played for.”

Falkenberry calls him one of the most important male figures in her life.

“I respect him as a coach first, but he’s gotten to be like a father figure as well,” she said.

At the conclusion of her softball career at Pendleton Heights, Hall presented Falkenberry with a special gift—the bat she used throughout high school, or at least what was left of it.

“She got a hit during one game and the bat snapped in half,” Hall said. “It was just a testament to how hard she hits the ball.”

Next season will be Falkenberry’s last as a Bulldog, and she already realizes how much she will miss it.

“These have been the three best years of my life,” Falkenberry said. “I can’t imagine not playing with these girls anymore. They’re like my sisters, and I love them.”

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