Lindsay Rood knows all about perfection. She flirted with it last year and lost. Now she’s less than comfortable even talking about it.
But Cal’s senior shortstop and leadoff hitter is at it again.
Heading into this weekend’s Pac-12 softball series at Oregon, Rood is 27 for 27 on stolen base attempts this season. No Division I player in the country has more stolen bases without being caught.
“It’s pretty hard to find a catcher who can throw her out,” Cal coach Diane Ninemire said.
Over the past two seasons, only one catcher has managed to cut Rood down on the basepaths. She is 58 of 59 on stolen base attempts (a 98.3-percent success rate!) since the start of 2018, and was perfect in 31 tries last season until being thrown out trying to swipe third base by Oregon catcher Gwen Svekis on May 10 in Berkeley.
When it happened, Rood had an unexpected reaction.
“I thought it was kind of funny. You can’t be bummed at that point,” she said. “I stole second against Oregon and next pitch tried to steal third. It was just dumb.”
She gives all credit to Svekis, who graduated from Oregon last spring after the Ducks advanced to the College World Series for the fourth time in five seasons. “She’s really good,” Rood said. “She’s amazing.”
But Rood also points to that moment as the reason she doesn’t want to dwell on the success she’s having again this season.
She is proud of her perfect record, but adds, “I also don’t want to think about that because it’s going to make me more hesitant on the bases and not want to steal. Last year I got thrown out once and it was when I was thinking about it. I got overconfident.”
Stealing a base in softball is difficult. Runners cannot leave their base until the ball the pitcher releases the ball — no leadoffs, as in baseball — so timing and speed are everything.
“Lindsay’s a great athlete and she has a lot of great gifts you can’t really coach,” Ninemire said. “She has great speed … and she’s fearless as far as her baserunning. She pretty much has the green light to steal when she chooses.”
Some baserunners wait until they believe the pitcher is throwing an off-speed pitch. Rood says she doesn’t bother much with that. She reads the middle infielders and tries to keep the defense guessing.
“If you have to be told to go, it’s too late by that point. So baserunning’s fun and it’s a game and it’s a game of instincts.”
Although she cannot leave the base until the pitch is released, Rood says all runners try to gain an advantage there.
“I’ve been pushing it, leaving as early as I can without getting called out,” she said. “I’m just going to keep pushing it.”
The Bears (23-20, 2-12 Pac-12) have struggled in conference play and Rood says that detracts from enjoying her personal achievements. Cal hasn’t beaten Oregon (17-21, 2-10) since Rood’s freshman season.
“I just hope we can finish the season stronger than it’s been,” she said.
Despite the team’s struggles, Rood has continued to excel. A returning first-team All-Pac-12 pick from 2018, she entered the week third in the conference with a .430 batting average and first in the Pac-12 (third nationally) with 65 hits.
And, for the second straight season, she is leading the Pac-12 in stolen bases. With seven more thefts, she would join Jamia Reid (177 steals from 2009-12) as the only Cal players with 100 career stolen bases.
Rood actually thinks she has the advantage over the defense.
“Just being fast, you learn what you can and can’t do. You learn to push yourself, because you know being fast you have to put the pressure on the defense,” she said.
“They have to catch the ball, throw the ball and catch the ball again. And you just have to run.”
*** NOTE: All three of Cal’s games at Oregon will be shown on the Pac-12 Networks. The teams play Thursday at 5 p.m., Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at noon. The schedule is moved up one day from the norm because of Easter Sunday.