Ehrman eases into role as IND's leader

April 07, 1995|By Kevin Eck | Kevin Eck,Contributing Writer

There was a shy freshman on the Institute of Notre Dame softball team three years ago who was so quiet that her teammates nicknamed her "Beaker," after the Muppets character who never spoke.

The nickname has remained with the player, although it is probably no longer appropriate.

It seems that All-Metro senior shortstop Kristan Ehrman has gradually become comfortable accepting her role as one of the team's leaders.

If another player needs some guidance or encouragement, Ehrman is there to provide it.

Through her work ethic, positive demeanor and considerable talent, Ehrman has become something of a role model to her teammates.

"I like it," said Ehrman, who cites Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken as one of her idols. "I don't mind being a role model."

IND coach Sandy Altadonna literally uses Ehrman as a model in practice.

"When the season starts and we have 55 to 60 girls trying out for the team, I ask Kristan to get in front of everyone and demonstrate her fielding position and her batting position," Altadonna said. "She has the basics down and that's what you try and teach. Very seldom do I need to say anything to her because she knows the basics so well."

Indeed. It's a rare occurrence to see Ehrman make a mental error, or an error of any kind. She committed a combined four errors at shortstop during her sophomore and junior seasons.

Altadonna described Ehrman's range as adequate, but he said that she compensates with her strong arm and positioning.

Ehrman, who has been playing shortstop since she was 7, is charged with an error about as often as she strikes out. Despite being a power hitter (five home runs last season), she struck out only twice.

She finished the season with a .452 average, three triples and 28 RBIs. In six games this season, Ehrman is hitting .381 with two home runs, two triples and 16 RBIs.

"I've worked hard on my swing the past couple of years," said Ehrman, a four-year starter. "I just try to make contact and try not to swing at bad pitches. I don't aim it anywhere."

Altadonna attributes much of Ehrman's success in the field and at the plate to her mental toughness.

"She is continuously thinking ahead," Altadonna said. "When she's out in the field, she thinks about what to do if the ball is hit to her, where to go if the ball isn't hit to her. She studies the batters and thinks about what they've done before."

Ehrman's quick thinking helped the Indians (5-1) defeat defending Catholic League champion Archbishop Spalding, 5-4, Tuesday. Spalding had entered the game with a 22-game winning streak, including four victories over IND last season.

With the score tied at 4 in the sixth, the Cavaliers had runners on second and third with one out.

IND third baseman Robin Johnson fielded a grounder and hesitated throwing to first. The runner at third had started toward the plate when Johnson noticed that Ehrman had gone to third to cover the base.

Johnson threw the ball to Ehrman, who tagged out the runner. The rally was quelled and the Indians scored a run in the top of the seventh to win the game.

"Kristan was in the right place at the right time," Altadonna said. "She was thinking again and it made a difference."

Earlier this week, Ehrman -- who carries a 3.9 grade-point average -- was accepted at Notre Dame, where she plans to double major in biology and studio art.

She also hopes to make the softball team as a walk-on.

Judging by what she has accomplished thus far, don't be surprised to see "Beaker" in a Fighting Irish uniform.

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