Alex Burns was an eighth grader at Baldwin Middle School when she received a text message from Baldwin softball coach Tom Llewellyn that would change her trajectory in the sport.
When Burns learned she would be spending her mornings in the middle school then afternoons on the varsity softball field, she wanted to prove she belonged from the first practice. Burns did exactly that and cemented herself in the middle of the Bruins’ lineup and in the biggest game of the 2014 season, the emerging star showed why she was worthy of her position.
Trailing Calhoun in the seventh inning of a playoff game, Burns blasted a three-run home run to give the Bruins the playoff victory.
“I’ll never forget how winning that game felt, we were so ecstatic just to go on the next round,” Burns said. “I knew I was able to handle it, especially with the people around me, it made it easy to transition.”
Fast forward five years later and Burns, a senior, is the centerpiece of a deep Bruins team looking to compete for a county title. The centerfielder holds the school record with 39 home runs — including five long balls in the first six games of this season — and already looks locked in to start the spring.
“It’s my senior year,” Burns said. “It’s my fifth year on the team and coach is always telling me to have fun and I hit my best when I have a simple and relaxed swing.”
Burns, a two-time All-Long Island second-team selection committed to play at Molloy College, hit .500 with five home runs, 25 RBIs and 29 runs for the Nassau AA-II champions last season. This year, Baldwin — off to a 2-4 start through April 9 — will play in Nassau AA-I against the top teams in the county.
“We thought it was our time to show AA-I what we’re made of,” Burns said. “And I think so far we’ve done a pretty good job.”
But Baldwin’s rise hasn’t solely come because of Burns. Batting third, Burns has the protection of Yaya Spencer hitting second and Juliet Bernstein batting fourth, creating a middle of the order that can compete with anyone on Long Island. Spencer hit .556 with an on-base percentage better than .600 and pitched to a 2.50 ERA with 121 strikeouts last season.
“We really have two top of the line hitters in front of her and behind her,” Llewellyn said. “Having those three back-to-back-to back, it’s hard to pitch around any of them to be honest with you.”
Llewellyn credits every part of Burns’ game, but said her softball IQ and awareness is what separates her from many others on the field. If teams play her deep, she’ll hit a line drive and hustle the bases for a double. She’ll even drop down a few bunts, and possesses the power to drive the ball over the fence with every swing.
“As many home runs as she’s hit, she just knows the game well,” Llewellyn said. “She knows when she needs to take an extra base, knows to move over to batters without being told. She’s explosive. She can really drive a ball.”