To her teammates, Anna Aguon is known for bumping to Usher before games and spreading smiles throughout the dugout.
But to the UB record books, she’s something more: the Bulls’ all-time leader in career home runs.
Standing at just 5-foot-3, Aguon doesn’t necessarily look like the most intimidating person on the diamond. But over her five-year playing career in the Queen City, the graduate student has earned a reputation as one of the most feared competitors in program history.
The Vancouver, WA native is a three-time first-team All-Mid-American Conference (2018, 2019 and 2021) selection, an NFCA All-Mideast First Team athlete (2021) and a one-time MAC all-freshman team nominee (2018).
Even so, she has no intention of slowing down. She broke UB’s all-time home run mark — previously held by Sammi Gallardo, who had 30 career homers from 2011-14 — to lead off Tuesday afternoon’s game against Kent State. And she still has four games left to add onto her total.
“I felt like there was a weight lifted off my shoulders,” Aguon told The Spectrum Tuesday after she broke the all-time mark. “Super excited, everybody was excited. I look forward to breaking it again.”
Aguon knows she has to stay relaxed and focused to finish the season, but she trusts her skills and her 2021 Xeno, a fastpitch softball bat designed by Louisville Slugger, to get the job done.
“I can’t just go up and say, ‘I’m going to hit a home run,’” Aguon said about her approach at the plate. “I just have to go with the flow and see what happens.”
Aguon may have set the all-time home run mark, but her path to stardom was anything but linear.
She was originally recruited to UB as a catcher and a middle infielder, but was transformed into a dependable and rangy outfielder. She already has 48 putouts this season, which ranks seventh on the team.
Aguon is affectionately known by her teammates as “granny,” due to her seniority on the team. Not only is she a trusted voice in the room, she is also known to be humble about her accomplishments.
“I think I owe a lot of my progress to the coaching staff and my teammates because without them I really don’t grow,” Aguon said. “You can grow individually, but only so much. It really helps to have your teammates there.”
Her teammates reciprocate the love. They believe her go-with-the-flow attitude, optimistic perspective and willingness to help others has fostered a better team environment.
“She’s very cool, calm and collected [in the dugout] but she’s always there to show up and fight,” sophomore infielder Ally Sobasze said. “She has a little spark in her. We all kind of depend on her a little bit for that spark to lift us up when we need it.”
Head coach Mike Ruechel praises Aguon for her coachability and for how well she works with others. He believes Aguon sets a great example — most notably, for her dedication to the game — for the younger women on the team.
“Her work ethic is off the charts,” Ruechel said. “She comes in here and she does everything — she hustles, she slides on the turf and she’s doing everything we ask her.”
Aguon says she closely watches the pitcher’s windup and release point in the batter’s box and lights up low and inside pitches. With a personal emphasis on seeing the ball and hitting it as hard as she can, it should come as little surprise she has tallied 186 hits and 101 RBI’s in her career as a Bull.
During her senior campaign last season, Aguon led the team with 60 hits and totaled 12 doubles, 42 runs scored and 36 RBI’s. She also had a .758 slugging percentage and a .497 on-base percentage.
She hit .392 last season and .336 and .352 in her freshman and sophomore years, respectively. But, even as she stares down the school record, she isn’t having her best season at the plate — batting only .214 with 27 hits and 22 walks in 126 plate appearances.
The 5-foot-3 powerhouse hit 14 homers last season but has only launched four long balls this year. Ruechel can’t seem to explain the drop off.
“She comes every day, she puts in the work. Maybe it’s the fact that they’re pitching her differently, but I don’t think so. Maybe the fact that there’s all these records sitting in front of her and she’s trying too hard, but even though this has not been her greatest year number-wise, she’s been very productive,” Ruechel said. “She’s been getting key hits in situations and she’s been productive in the locker room as well, because the kids all kind of gravitate to her.”
But it’s precisely because of the drop-off in her totals this season that she felt an extra pride at breaking the all-time mark.
“Yes I was [itching for that one],” Aguon said. “At first, I didn’t realize. I just hit it and was running around. And then it was over. Lo and behold, it went over. You’ve just gotta wait for it.”
Still, one “off” year should barely put a dent into her legacy as a softball player, especially when she just made history.
“I would have to say she’s been the best player that has played in this program since I’ve been here,” Ruechel, who was named the head coach during Aguon’s sophomore year, said.
Both Ruechel and Aguon share the same favorite memory from this season: her walk-off home run against Ohio University in UB’s first MAC series. The Bulls entered the bottom of the seventh inning down by one run. Aguon stepped up to the plate with one out and one runner on and launched the ball to right center, scoring two runs to notch the team’s first conference win.
Ruechel says her walk-off shot is just one of many examples of Aguon’s strong character.
“She’s a very coachable, likable kid,” Ruechel said. “For a coaching staff, that makes things easier because she blends in. She works well with other people. When you put up elite numbers like she has, she could easily put herself one level above but she doesn’t. She’s just a down to earth, good kid who works hard.”
Justin Weiss and Reilly Mullen contributed to the reporting.
Kayla Sterner is an assistant sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kayla Sterner is an assistant sports editor at The Spectrum. She is studying communications with the hopes of being a sideline reporter. In her spare time, she can be found in the gym, watching football or vibing to Mac Miller. Kayla is on Twitter @kaylasterner.