For the past two high school seasons, Aaliyah White has been the epitome of what is commonly referred to as an impact player.
With outstanding contact ability, blazing speed, good base running instincts, a consistent glove, wide range and a strong arm, Grayson’s senior shortstop usually finds a way to help the Rams in all facets of the game.
Still, she’s been looking for a way to make an even bigger mark for her team in any given game. So back to the batting cages and weight room she’s gone.
“I worked on my power hitting, and not just slapping,” said White, a two-time first-team All-County selection by the Daily Post, two-time All-State selection and 2018 Gwinnett Diamond Club Defensive Player of the Year. “That’s helped a lot. Defenses always think I’m going to bunt or hit it to the shortstop. But now (that) I can power hit, they’re not going to know (what I’ll do).”
From a general standpoint, opponents already have a good idea of what White will do over the course of a season based on her track record.
After hitting .485 with two home runs, 19 RBIs, 43 runs scored, a school-record 55 stolen bases and a 1.147 OPS as a sophomore two years ago, she followed up by finishing with a .370 average, two homers, 20 RBIs, three doubles, six triples, 48 stolen bases and 34 runs scored last year in helping the Rams back to the state tournament in Columbus for the first time since 2011.
And that doesn’t even factor in the slick defense she provides up the middle in the field.
“In 22 years, Aaliyah is the most athletic player I have ever had the opportunity to coach,” Grayson coach Bill Batchelor said of White. “On offense, she puts so much pressure on the defense. She can hit for power, slap, power slap, bunt and absolutely fly on the bases. Defensively, we want ever ball hit to her or in her hands. She makes plays that most have no chance to make. She is a game-changer.”
It is the power part of the equation that White wants to make a much bigger dimension of her game.
Not that she minds being a disruptor by simply slapping the ball and using her speed. It’s just that she wants to do more, so much so that she’s willing to put in a lot more work to expand her horizons at the plate.
“Me and my (private) hitting instructor, we worked constantly on drills, mechanics, things like that,” White said. “That’s helped a lot, and I’ve hit more live pitching with more movement, and that’s helped, as well.”
It’s not just her own game that she believes will change this fall.
The Rams became known for their team speed on offense last year, and would seem to need to depend on that facet of the game more with the graduation of All-County first baseman and now Kennesaw State freshman Brinaya Bailey.
However, White points out that many of her teammates are also working on their power strokes in order to give opponents something more to think about in trying to defend them.
That all said, she doesn’t expect herself or the Rams to totally change their identities as players, but merely to add to them.
“Yes, and I (also) feel like we’re going to have more (team) speed, not necessarily power,” White said. “But most of the slappers, who were just slappers, they’re hitting away now.”
Adding options in how she approaches an at bat against different types of pitchers is something she expects will help her not only for his senior season at Grayson this fall, but also as she heads off to play college softball at the University of South Carolina, where she is verbally committed, a year from now.
“My college coach (South Carolina’s Beverly Smith) always says, ‘The more you have, the more (opponents) won’t know,’” White said. “I feel like when you’re able to bunt, slap … or hit for power, it just gives you more to the game.”