By Brian T. Chan, Sports Editor

Sophomores Rachael Davies and Tori Dudley may not ride a tandem bicycle, but the two coalesce as a formidable pair of middle infielders for the George Mason University softball team.

While Davies and Dudley continue to develop for one of the emerging teams in the Colonial Athletic Association, the two players offer distinct resumes prior to their arrival at Mason.

Davies, the shortstop, had a torrid start to the 2010 season, where she batted a then CAA-leading .471 in the first 12 games.

Since then, she has cooled off as her batting average dipped to .343, but she remains a key player on the team’s offense, leading the team with a .443 slugging percentage and 59 assists on defense.

Davies is one of the local products, hailing from Manassas, Va. after having played four years at Osbourn Park High School. While receiving offers from Monmouth University, East Tennessee State University and James Madison University, Davies felt that Mason was more suitable for her.

Davies had excelled at Osbourn Park, being named to the all-district first team and all-region second team three times in her four-year career.

Davies batted a career line of .400 during that span. Although being a standout athlete, Davies’ journey began when she was 3 years old.

“My grandfather was teaching me to play baseball, and I would go in the backyard and throw buckets of baseballs since 3,” said Davies. “I’ve never stopped [since then].”

While the sport has been a large part of her life, Davies states that her unique skill is her energy. With that, Davies has shown her all-around ability at the plate or on the field.

Last year, Davies led the team with 36 hits and 24 RBIs. Additionally, she hit two homeruns while scoring a total of 20 runs. On defense, Davies recorded a team-leading 104 assists, but she was also charged with a team-worst 24 errors and had the team’s lowest fielding percentage at .861 among starters. Her most embarrassing softball moment came on a fielding drill last year.

“It was in the middle of warm-ups, and I was just fielding a regular groundball; I basically just stepped on myself and fell face forward,” said Davies.

This year, Davies has shown improvements, making more contact at the plate. Her batting average is nearly 100 points higher than last year’s.

“I’m just focusing on seeing the ball and getting extra work,” said Davies. “I worked harder this year than last year. Every year, I’m just trying to build [off each season].”

Most of all, Davies has improved her defensive play at the keystone position, fielding at a .949 rate and committing just five defensive errors. She continues to look for improvement with her double play partner in Dudley.

“Every game, we’re getting stronger and stronger, and we’re just starting to mold better,” said Davies.

Dudley, on the other hand, was first acquainted with Mason in her junior year of high school while she was at a recruiting camp in Las Vegas. A number of factors influenced her decision to attend Mason.

“Mostly, it was the academics because I’m a nursing major,” said Dudley. “Then, with the softball team, I knew I was going to have a chance to do something with the team.”

Dudley, the second baseman, is one of two Mason softball players coming from the West Coast. From Maple Valley, Wash., Dudley competed in softball and volleyball at Tahoma High School. She earned second-team all-conference honors in her senior year. While Dudley has traveled a far distance to play for Mason, she feels that the team bonding has provided a positive experience.

In addition to playing volleyball, Dudley enjoys dancing and hanging out with friends.

Last year, Dudley played a major role on offense, leading the team with a .285 batting average, .348 on-base percentage and 52 total bases as the cleanup hitter. Dudley primarily served as the third baseman, a position in which she committed 21 errors.

This year, however, Dudley returned to a familiar position — the leadoff spot in the lineup.

“I actually hit leadoff going up until I got to Mason, so it was kind of coming back home to me as opposed to the 4 spot, which was new,” said Dudley. “Last year, I had to see a lot more pitches; I wasn’t going to get a lot to hit in the 4 spot as well as a leadoff, and the pitching was a lot tougher hitting before than the leadoff.”

In 47 at-bats, Dudley is hitting just .255, but her .453 on-base percentage is by far a team best.

Dudley leads the team with 12 runs, but entering the weekend series against the Towson Tigers, Mason remained at a minus-34-run margin. Dudley remains an asset to Mason at the leadoff slot.

Dudley has also made great strides on her defensive play, recording a .932 fielding percentage with 35 putouts and 34 assists.

As the team continues to look for improvements on both sides of the field, Dudley’s development will be a crucial part of the team’s ability to grow in years to come. For Dudley, it is important to play the game a certain way.

“This game has to be played relaxed,” said Dudley. “If you’re uptight, you’re going to make mistakes and you’re not going to get the results you want.”

Last year, Davies and Dudley combined for 45 of the team’s 100 errors, and each had a sub-par fielding percentage, but this year, they have committed a combined 10 errors, leading to respectable fielding percentages.

With a potent offense and an improved defense, Davies and Dudley establish a deadly duo in the middle infield.