Ah, but, that’s the refined product, the factory-tested model, if you will. What you don’t see are the revisions and transformations that have taken place to get Dunham to the heart of the Towson order and to the top of virtually all of the Tigers’ hitting categories this year.
As the Tigers head to the Colonial Athletic Association tournament Wednesday at Hofstra, Dunham, a junior, leads the team in batting average (.327) and RBI’s (41). Her six home runs are tied with Bina Abbott for the team lead, and Dunham has stolen 19 bases in 20 attempts.
Those numbers stand in stark contrast to her first two years at Towson, where she had a grand total of one home run, 16 RBI’s, one steal and a lifetime batting average of .164.
So, how does a player whose career numbers are on the south side of the Mendoza line get her name mentioned among the list of potential CAA Player of the Year candidates?
Well, according to Dunham, the simple answer starts with simplicity itself.
Dunham said she changed her swing, opening her stance and standing more upright at the plate than she had before. In addition, she said she backed off the plate slightly, still keeping full plate coverage while retaining her ability to go with the pitch to the opposite field.
“For me, it (adjusting) was more mental,” said Dunham. “I just realized how much the mental part has to do with it. I’ve just gotten my mind right and my confidence is up. Before, I would let the negative take over too much and the fear of striking out.”
And when opposing scouting reports started to reflect that the best way to get her out was to pitch inside, Dunham worked on improving her hand and bat speed, so that pop-ups would become drives to the outfield. She shortened her stride to help get her hands through the hitting zone more quickly.
“Then, I started being able to hit the inside pitch and that’s when I started hitting home runs,” said Dunham, a native of Chambersburg, Pa.
Additionally, Dunham and her teammates all listened to a relative of one of the players who suggested that they all train their eyes to really slow the ball down to help pick up the pitch sooner.
This relative told the Tigers that they should focus on two different spots points on the field and to switch their gaze back and forth between those points until just before the pitcher releases. That, the relative said, keeps the batter from thinking too much at the plate.
Where ever the Tigers (29-26-1) have been looking lately, the view has mostly been exceptionally pleasant, particularly over the last five weeks.
They ended March on a seven game losing streak, dropping the first six games of conference play. However, when the calendar turned to April, the Towson players made a dramatic run, winning 14 of 16 in the month, and 12 straight in one stretch.
For Dunham, the transformation was as easily explained as familiarity. Specifically, she said, the Tiger players became less of a collection of players and more of a team, a family even.
“(In the early part of the season), we didn’t really take the time to get to know each other the way you’d like to,” said Dunham. “I think when conference started, being around each other all the time, we started to hang out more outside of softball.”
“We’d go eat together. It just kind of really brought us all together. We acted more like a team.”
As the CAA tournament begins, the Tigers face their biggest challenge of the season in Wednesday’s opener, tackling Hofstra on their home field.
The Towson players will have to figure a way to make a dent in Pride All-America pitcher Olivia Galati, who held the Tigers scoreless last weekend in a three-game sweep.
But if the Tigers have learned nothing this season, it’s that things can change quickly. With a few timely hits and solid pitching, Delanie Dunham figures Towson can make the ultimate transformation: into conference champions.