Slugger Leaves SJU With Big Numbers

Every player that steps on the field knows they have a job to do. For some, it’s to set the table and get on base. Others know that, while they may not be skilled with the bat, their glove can make a difference. For a player in the middle of the lineup, power is the name of the game. But while a powerful swing can send the ball a long way, it can also cause a heavy breeze to sweep across the infield.

Kelly Houghton fits that style to a tee.

“I have always been all or nothing,” the senior center fielder said. “I think I’ve cut down my strikeouts some, but at least I go down swinging.”

That all-or-nothing swing has been a very productive one. After transferring from Briarcliffe Junior College via Delaware Tech before last season, expectations were high. She was coming from two programs that she had led to the Junior College World Series, and would still be adjusting to a position change made at Briarcliffe, where she moved from shortstop to center field.

That defensive switch didn’t phase the Delaware native, who made seven errors and had 25 assists. Offensively, that all-or-nothing swing produced a St. John’s single-season home run record, and helped her lead the team in RBI. Her nine home runs were good for third best in the Big East and her 33 RBI were the sixth best total in the conference. Throw in 11 doubles and that type of run producing somewhat negates a .239 average and 47 strikeouts, or one K every 3.8 at-bats.

“I go up to the plate, even if I’ve struck out two or three times, and I’m going up for my fourth time, I still think I’m going to hit the hell out of the ball,” Houghton said.

This season, that same attitude helped her set the all-time St. John’s home run record (15) with six more dingers in 2002. There was a stretch were she hit a home run in four straight games, two of which were game winners.

But the season didn’t get off to a good start. In fact, the season got off to a bad start back in November. On a Nov. 14 visit with a doctor, it was discovered that Houghton had a partial tear of the rotator cuff in her right shoulder.

“If he would have fixed it, I would have been out for six months and unable to play,” Houghton said, “so I’ve been playing with it all season. With all the playing, it’s gotten worse.”

With the season and her playing career now over, Houghton will have surgery. “It’s one of those things where I’m going to miss softball,” Houghton said, “but I’m ready for it to get over so I can recuperate.”

Recuperate is what many of the balls Houghton hits do on a daily basis. But if it weren’t for a certain number, then Houghton just wouldn’t be herself when she steps in the batter’s box. “If I don’t have it, I feel out of place,” said Houghton, referring to the No. 24 that adorns her jersey. “I’ve had it since I was young. It’s one of those ones that look good on a uniform. I love it on me.”

It doesn’t hurt that 24 is the same number made famous by other star center fielders, namely Willie Mays and Ken Griffey Jr. – two other hitters who know how to get the job done.

All Houghton did was get the job done, and leave everything on the field.