Berger's bat powers BG (04-05-13)
Written by KEVIN GORDON Sentinel Assistant Sports Editor
Friday, 05 April 2013 09:22
Paige Berger is best known as Bowling Green's career leader in home runs.
|BGSU’s Paige Berger steps up to bat. (Photo courtesy of BGSU Office of Athletic Communications)
But the senior is far more than a power hitter.
Instead, she hits for average, plays excellent defense and is one of the leaders on and off the field for the Falcons.
She has 34 homers going into this weekend's Mid-American Conference home games against Akron and Ohio University.
So far this season, Berger is hitting .326 in 26 games with four homers and 13 runs batted. She's struck out just once and has made only one error at first base.
"The record is nice, but the team is the most important thing," said Berger, who hit three homers Tuesday in a doubleheader against Detroit to break the record of 32 set by Hayley Weimer (2006-09).
Berger setting the record was no surprise to Falcon coach Shannon Salsburg, who first saw her star play as a 10-year-old in Northeast Ohio.
Berger and Salsburg's youngest sister, who is two years older than Berger, often played in the same youth travel tournaments growing up.
During the recruiting process, Salsburg told Berger she would set BG's career record for homers.
Berger has a .324 career average in 170 games. Her 114 RBI are the third-most in BG history. She has just 18 errors.
She was a second-team All-MAC selection as a sophomore, and a first-team pick as a freshman when she was named the MAC's freshman of the year.
Berger earned first-team All-Ohio honors at Rootstown High School in 2007, and second-team honors in 2006 and 2009.
She holds the Rootstown record for career homers, and earned 16 letters in volleyball, basketball, softball and track. In track, she competed in the sprints, the discus, the shot put and the long jump.
"She's done everything I expected and then some," Salsburg said. "She could hit bombs when she was 10. You would see this little young thing crushing the ball."
Berger verbally committed to BG as a junior on New Year's Eve in 2007, but she received a scare when she tore ligaments in her knee during a basketball game that year. Salsburg assured her she still had a scholarship to BG, but she would play first instead of shortstop.
"She was in tears when she called me when she got hurt, but I knew she would be the best first baseman in the MAC," Salsburg said. "There was no doubt how good she was going to be, once she got healthy. She had a lot of intangibles. She worked hard. She's constantly fixed things in her game that I would consider weaknesses. She's a leader.
"She's always had great bat speed which you can't teach," Salsburg added. "She is blessed with great hands. She played the game the right way. She played it hard and she loved it. She was willing to do whatever it took to help her team win."
Berger smoothly adjusted to first base with the aid of Salsburg, a two-time All-Big Ten Conference honoree at the same position when she played at Penn State.
"She is outstanding defensively," Salsburg said. "Her footwork, her soft hands, the things she's learned have enabled her to make play after play. She was a natural there because she has a high softball IQ. It didn't take her long to understand the techniques and the little things she had to do to be a good first baseman. She takes great pride in her defense."
Berger has excellent range and a strong arm, and she routinely saves her teammates from throwing errors.
"I was just looking to play wherever I could help the team the most," Berger said. "The switch was difficult at first, but I've really embraced it and enjoy playing there now."
After hitting .326 with seven homers and 35 RBI last season, Berger had just one homer this season entering Tuesday and had gone 19 games without a round-tripper.
The Falcons are 15-11 overall and 1-3 in the MAC East. They're hoping to get back on track this weekend after finishing second in the East last season and being the favorite to win the division this season.
BG swept Detroit, 12-3, 9-1.
"We got things turned around against Detroit and we want to keep it going this weekend," Berger said.
Berger has a 3.8 grade-point average in early childhood education. She's student teaching at Kenwood Elementary this semester.