When she strides across home plate to take her lefty stance inside the batter’s box, you might not expect anything out of the ordinary from Sydney Turchin. But her opponents know better by now.
Indeed, the senior outfielder looks quite unassuming when her bat slams square into her back during her practice swings behind home plate. The only clue she gives to pitchers of just how much of an offensive menace she can be is her calm but focused stare just visible underneath the brow of her batting helmet.
And then she swings. Suddenly, it becomes clear that Turchin is anything but ordinary. This is a familiar scene for the senior, as she has consistently found herself atop the Quakers’ record books for the season and program throughout her four years as a starter.
Last year, she was third on the team in batting average at .317, and with 126 at-bats, she trailed only then-freshman standout Leah Allen in appearances in the batter’s box. Turchin also came in at fifth in program history with 96 career hits.
But Turchin isn’t just deadly with a bat in hand. “She’s got good speed, [she’s a] good athlete, she can do a lot of things with the bat,” coach Leslie King said of the outfielder. “She’s a triple threat, really.”
After just three seasons with Penn softball, she was tied for the second-most stolen bases in program history with 32. So far, barely a third of the way into the 2015 season, the senior has already added four more stolen bases to that total, cementing her spot atop Penn’s program record books once the season culminates in May.
But the Red and Blue have a long road ahead of them before they can retire their bats for 2015. Perhaps the biggest contribution that Turchin will make to the team is not the runs she will score or the outs she will force. Rather, it is the intensity she brings to the diamond and how she sets the tone for her team, both on and off the field.
“As one of only four seniors, her role is really important in terms of showing kids this is how we do things at Penn, this is how you handle adversity, this is how you handle a mistake,” King said. “That kind of leadership is invaluable.”
Turchin is aware of the impact she has on her teammates — after all, she is entering her second year as team captain after being voted into the leadership position before her junior season.
“Sydney definitely puts herself out there,” second baseman Vanessa Weaver said of her fellow senior classmate. According to Weaver, this aspect of Turchin’s personality has made her a natural leader on a team so filled with youth — of the 25 players, 17 are underclassmen.
As the Ivy season approaches, Turchin has taken it upon herself to set an example for her younger teammates. “I’m really trying to instill that will to win no matter who’s on the field,” Turchin said. “Just going out there like it’s the Ivy League championship every game.”
This Friday might be the closest the Quakers will get to playing as if it were the Ivy League championship until the actual tournament rolls around at the end of April. In fact, the Ancient Eight opener against Dartmouth set to take off at 2 p.m. at Penn Park is a rematch of last year’s Ivy Championship final in which the Quakers fell to the Big Green in three games.
For Turchin, this might even be the most anticipated game of the season, and not just because she will finally get to replace her usual game-day eye black with red and blue glitter, a sparkly decoration she only dons for conference games.
No, the Dartmouth doubleheader on Friday is important because it is the first step of many towards getting another Ivy League ring. Turchin has been to the Ancient Eight championship every season that she has played for Penn; however she only walked away with a title in 2013.
“Coming back from losing in the championship, to coming back and winning and coming back and losing — it’s like this year is all or nothing,” Turchin said.
“My biggest goal is winning the Ivy League championship, obviously,” she said. “It’s the pinnacle of your career. I would be so humbled if I was able to experience that twice.”
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