Penn softball coach Leslie King knew her star player would be re-writing the record books this season. She didn’t know the Quakers’ stolen bases record would be shattered at that exact moment, because she hadn’t given Leah Allen a steal sign.
But Allen, who stood tied for the all-time program record with 42 career steals after a stolen base against St Bonaventure in the season opener earlier that day and at this exact moment stood on first base in the fourth inning of Penn’s matchup with Ball State, thought King had called for a hit-and-run.
The hit-and-run play usually requires two players to work, but if anybody was going to turn a play with that name into a solo mission, it was going to be Leah Allen. No player in the history of the program has been so capable of dominating the game both with the bat and with their legs.
But Allen is unlike any player Penn softball has ever seen. When she slid safely into second, it ended her approximately 45-minute-long drought of not having shattered an all-time Penn record. Leading off in the first inning of that same game, Allen had hit her 25th career home run and established herself as the new record-holder in a category that, until Allen came along, certainly did not go hand-in-hand with the stolen base.
“She’s pretty special. It’s very, very rare to have that combination of power and speed. If you asked anybody who follows softball or baseball, if you ask anybody who set a record for both stolen bases and home runs, it’s rarified air, it just doesn’t happen,” King said. So her ability to run and swing the bat, with power, is something that we knew, when we were recruiting her--- we felt very, very fortunate that she chose to come to Penn.”
Allen, who entered her final season on the brink of the home run and stolen base crowns, is also just 14 runs batted in short of becoming the leader in that category, and is three triples away from setting a new mark for that statistic as well. The team is well aware of this ongoing assault on the record books, and they were very aware on that sunny day in Florida when history sailed over the fence.
“It was one of my furthest home runs I think I’ve ever hit, so it was a really good feeling,” Allen recalled. “I hit it out and I knew in my head it was 25, so I was running around the bases and I was really happy. It was a really good one to get 25 on.”
“I stole the ball,” King laughed. “And the umpire kept asking me for the ball. He was like, ‘can I have the ball, coach?’ And I was like ‘no.’ And I didn’t wanna call a time out to tell him why that I kept the ball that she hit out, but yeah, we were all very aware.”
The records won’t be enough for Allen. She wants an Ivy League championship, and she knows this is her final chance. But she fully understands and values the significance of her astounding numbers, and the permanent place she has earned in Penn softball history.
“I think it’s just really awesome to know that all the hard work over the years--- not just here at Penn, but in high school when you’d go for trips you’d miss so many things like Homecoming or dances,” Allen said, “it’s really nice to know that all those missed things that I was really upset about then paid off in the long run. It’s really nice to know that everything worked out in the end.”
It didn’t come easily, or conveniently, but Allen’s legacy as the best offensive dual-threat in the history of the program is something that can never be taken away from her.
Unless another Leah Allen comes along. But don’t hold your breath.
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