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Townsend’s switch to the outfield propels Barbs toward sectional final

For DeKalb junior Jessica Townsend, there came a point when she needed to step up and say something to do what was best for the Barbs softball team.

Townsend never had played shortstop before taking over the position as a sophomore for DeKalb, which plays for the Class 4A Prairie Ridge Sectional title at 11 a.m. today against Warren. The Barbs didn’t really have a natural shortstop, and coach Jeff Davis knew Townsend had experience at third base and thought she was athletic enough to play short.

She played well in 2012. But at the start of this season, Townsend struggled with her defense, which in turn carried over to her offense.

So in early May, Townsend decided she needed to do what she felt would make the team better. She talked to Davis about moving to the outfield, where she played as a freshman and her primary position during travel ball with the Wasco Diamonds.

Davis understood, told Townsend he appreciated all the work she put in at short, and not long after, Townsend was DeKalb’s starting left fielder with Sarah Friedlund taking over at shortstop.

“I just talked to my coach about it because I wasn’t really feeling comfortable there, I wasn’t doing my best,” Townsend said. “So, I wanted to go back to the outfield, that’s where I’m comfortable.”

Townsend hasn’t made an error since switching positions, and will take over in center next season after Sabrina Killeen graduates.

Davis said Townsend approaching him and offering to change positions took a lot of courage.

“I do believe that was pretty big of her,” Davis said. “Very mature of her. I do think that she could see what was best for the team, and it shows great responsibility and leadership.”

With Townsend in left, Killeen in center and freshman Morgan Newport in right field, Davis said the Barbs have one of the best outfields in the state.

“It’s great, we have great outfielders,” Townsend said. “I love playing out there with them.”

Davis said Townsend’s athletic ability really transfers to the outfield. He said she just has a knack for the ball, has great judgment and possesses a shortstop’s arm – Davis said she can hit the catcher on only one hop.

“There’s just so many things,” Davis said. “Just her ability to play that position and cover the gaps.”

Townsend’s offense also has come on since her move to the outfield, and she plays a key role in the Barbs’ order. Townsend hit seventh in DeKalb’s 4-3 regional semifinal win over Harlem on Wednesday and came around to score on Killeen’s two-run double that tied the score in the fourth inning.

“Making errors and mistakes, it carries over into your at-bats, and you’re just like negative,” Townsend said. “I think being in the outfield definitely helps my batting.”

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