Kindra Hackbarth, Morgan Howe and Skylar McCarty combined for arguably the best outfield in the nation last season, but only Hackbarth will return to Arizona State softball as Howe and McCarty graduated.
As ASU prepared to start the new season, Hackbarth found herself missing her outfield buddies from the past few seasons as her senior season begins.
“It is definitely going to be different, just because they were always there and they had my back through it all,” Hackbarth said.
Last season, this dynamic trio produced massive numbers at the plate. Goodyear’s DeNae Chatman, a Millennium High grad, has helped fill the void, hitting .300 over the first month of the season.
Chatman, a junior, plays first base and has slugged 24 home runs in her ASU career. She had three homers as the Sun Devils raced to a 16-5 season start.
Hackbarth will also be in a different position. She has played right field throughout her career, but will move to center field this season. ASU coach Trisha Ford also said at media day sophomore Yannira Acuña will play left field and freshman Jazmine Hill will play right field.
“It is kind of (an adjustment) just because I played right field,” Hackbarth said. “I played centerfield growing up, but I have played right field all through college. Coach (Carly) Wynn has definitely helped me transition into it, so she has made it a lot easier. If you are a good athlete, you can play any position in the outfield.”
Although Hackbarth admitted she will definitely miss Howe and McCarty this season, she added when she graduates, she will also definitely miss Acuña.
Hackbarth and Acuña have grown close in Tempe. As they stood side by side and answered questions from the reporters during Media Day at Farrington Stadium, Hackbarth talked glowingly about her teammate.
“We have been through a lot,” Hackbarth said. “I can’t wait to see how much she grows and see the person she is going to grow into … ugh, I am just going to miss her. She comes up to me and says, ‘I can’t believe you are my teammate,’ then she says, ‘I am so lucky to have you as my teammate.’ She is such a good person and … she is going to do really big things when I am gone.”
As a freshman, Acuña was able to soak in advice from Hackbarth, Howe and McCarty as she watched and played beside them.
“I learned a lot from them all last year,” Acuña said. “Coming in as a freshman, you don’t really know what to expect. (They were) the best outfield in the nation, so I just wanted to be out there with them. Everything they did, I was like, ‘Oh, I want to be just like them,’ … just to get better.”
Acuña wants to remain the best outfield in the nation, and Ford has faith in her players and Wynn as the outfield coach.
“I thought we had the best outfield in the nation last year with a veteran outfield,” Ford said. (This season, Wynn) has had to get out her coaching tools and get (this new group) going. She has done a tremendous job, and I am really excited.”
Wynn has worked wonders in the outfield.
Ford acknowledged how precisely Wynn goes with angles, footwork, weight transfer, timing and other techniques needed in the outfield.
Wynn presumably is key to the outfield success for the Sun Devils.
“She puts a lot of effort and work into the little things,” Ford said. “This is why I think you see it show up in our outfield. I am hoping and I know she is working hard to make sure our outfield doesn’t miss a beat and we do a lot of great things out there like we did last season.”
To the delight of ASU fans, it will include dancing.
In recent seasons, Hackbarth, Howe and McCarty were notorious for outfield dances, and this season Hackbarth said everyone has put in input for new dances. With the season opener extremely close, Hackbarth said the dances are coming along and will be ready soon.
“We are still working on it,” Hackbarth said. “We are trying to do something different this year.”