Adapted approach yields success for Aubrey Leach

© Athletes Unlimited, LLC 2023 / Credit: Jade Hewitt Media
Savanna Collins
Jul 21, 2023

Aubrey Leach took the 2023 AUSoftball season by storm. She shot to the top of the leaderboard in Series 1, consistently performing at the plate and winning points as a captain to earn a second-place medal.

Coming into the season, Leach shifted not only her approach but also changed her identity as a batter to make her a more lethal competitor within the Athletes Unlimited scoring system.

It paid off.

“You never know when those [adjustments] will pay off or if they will even pay off … It’s a risk you’re willing to take to make changes. And the fact that it’s dumped full steam ahead and you’re a captain, you hit a home run. I’m accomplishing the things I set out to accomplish. The fact they’re happening so fast has just been like a whirlwind of the three weeks.”

After competing in the 2020 and 2022 seasons, Leach took a hard look at the leaderboard: who was finishing at the top and earning medals? She knew to be a contender in the league, you had to have power.

“The people that are accumulating points and the way you’re actually climbing the leaderboard is hitting the long ball or those extra base hits,” Leach explained.

That wasn’t how she would describe her production as a hitter. Leach embraced being a speed player: bunts, slaps, putting the ball on the ground, and beating it out to first. Then, relying on the team mentality that someone will hit her around and that role will help her team win ball games. She described it as similar to a collegiate mentality and it’s what made her successful at Tennessee. But if she wanted to battle up the leaderboard, it was time to do things differently.

Leach hadn’t stood in the box and “took [her] hacks” since high school but she was ready to add that to her arsenal as a pro. She started by adjusting her swing from being line drive oriented to getting some air off the bat.

“I’m hitting through the infield. I’m getting it to the grass, but unless I’m hitting a gap, it’s not always extra bases. And so it was more looking for [a pitch]. I need the backspin; I need a little height.”

That was the mechanical side. The other side that she talks about often is adding more physical strength which she did through CrossFit training and strengthening her body top down. Leach said she always felt fit and excelled in the weight room but this new training took her power to a new level.

Once she invested time in the cage and the gym, it was put to the test.

Leach was named to the team national team roster and competed with Team USA throughout 2022. At the 2022 Pan American Championship in Guatemala, she hit fifth in the lineup.

“It was one of those things where it felt like right place, right time … Where I was like, okay, I can dive into me being a power hitter and me really free swinging and letting go of the what if I don’t, you know, touch the ball and that kind of thing.”

Any doubts were quickly settled for Leach. She posted a .679 batting average in Guatemala City and was named the tournament’s MVP.

“I had a lot of success with it and did well enough to where I was like, okay, like let’s fully commit.”

She carried that into AUX and posted the best numbers of her career with the league. Compared to her previous two Championship seasons, Leach’s slugging percentage had never broken .400 but at AUX she nearly doubled that to .757.

She hit the first (and second) home run of her AU career. In two seasons she’d only hit two doubles but in just 37 at-bats at AUX she hit five along with her first triple.

She expected a few more strikeouts and a couple of extra doubles. A home run would be nice. But hitting one in the first game of the season had her asking, “Holy cow, what did I just do?”

Leach served as a captain in Series 2 and 3, putting her in charge of her own fate and teams to remain at the top.

With AUunder her belt providing confidence in her new approach, she has the fourth Softball Championship season on the horizon to put it to the test once again.

It was the perfect culmination of an “individual sport within a team concept” in addition to the love of game management she’s developed as a graduate assistant for the Volunteers — while attending the University of Tennessee College of Law.

The duality of her hitting mirrors her two professional pursuits: softball player and future lawyer; slapper and power hitter.

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