Arizona softball sees rise in power hitters

Arizona softball sees rise in power hitters


Arizona softball sees rise in power hitters


“Chicks” don’t just dig the long ball anymore. They hit them.

Across the state, it seems softballs are flying out of the park as often as bees flap their wings.

With about a month left in the regular season, at least 27 Arizona high school players have hit five or more home runs. It continues last season’s power-hitting trend that saw at least 40 players hit eight or more home runs; with more than half of those players’ totals in double digits. Gilbert Perry senior Jillian Leslie, who led the state last season with 18 home runs, hit her first home run when she was 11.

“When you first start hitting home runs, it’s a rush,” she said. “It’s the most amazing feeling in the world. To me, home runs are still the most amazing and successful feeling in the world. The surprise dies down, but the feeling of accomplishment never will.”

This season, home run totals for several teams are on pace to shatter their total from 2012. For example, Phoenix Horizon hit 20 home runs in 35 games but already had 17 in its first 19 games, led by senior Margaret Stahm’s state-leading eight home runs.

Division I powers Chandler Basha and Mesa Red Mountain are also seeing their home run totals increase.

Basha, which is led by Hailee Siroky’s seven home runs, hit 35 homers in 39 games last season. This season, it hit 26 in its first 18 games.

Red Mountain slammed 45 homers last season; it’s now on pace for 50. Red Mountain coach Rich Hamilton said the increase is due to the rise of better hitters rather than the lack of good pitching.

“Colleges look for that (power hitting), and I think these kids are working really hard at it,” he said. “In my starting nine, eight of them have hit home runs. It’s never been like that.

“Jordan (Beck) has hit the farthest home runs I’ve ever seen in high school. Watching our batting practice is like watching planes taking off a runway.”

Beck, a junior catcher, led Red Mountain with 11 home runs last year and is at the forefront again in the current campaign with seven so far. As other players have mentioned, Beck said the power starts from the ground up; from the strength in their legs, to their core and hips, to their quick hands.

“It’s a chain reaction,” Beck said. “A lot of it comes from strength, but if you don’t have the correct technique, you can’t expect to hit the ball.”

Beck’s favorite thing about hitting the ball isn’t the sweet sound when bat crushes ball or watching it sail toward the horizon.

“It’s not having to sprint to first base.”

Scottsdale Chaparral junior Dallas McBride, whose first over-the-fence home run was her first at-bat in high school two seasons ago, had always hit well but possessed “warning track power.”

“But when I started doing ‘CrossFit’ with my parents, I really started to see a huge difference,” she said. “It really strengthened my legs and core and I think that that’s where a lot of my power comes from.”

Phoenix Bourgade Catholic junior Katie Gallucci hit her first home run seven years ago but didn’t realize she hit for power until she was intentionally walked for the first time in high school.

“I didn’t understand why this happened at the time, and I was frustrated,” she said. “But when I got back in the dugout, my coach explained it was a compliment because they would rather put me on one (first base) rather than take the chance of me hitting it out.”

Peoria Centennial sophomore Skylar McCarty didn’t hit a home run last year, mostly because she wasn’t asked to provide the power in a lineup already full of it. This season, she’s hit six to pace Centennial’s 13 in its first 14 games. McCarty doesn’t always know she’s hit one out of the park until it happens.

“There are times I feel like I miss hit it,” she said. “My first home run, I thought I popped it up. This ended up being my farthest home run ever.”

Some players like Goodyear Desert Edge power hitter Ari Samaniego, who blasted nine last year as a freshman and already has seven this season, knows she can trot around the bases as soon as she makes contact.

“There is a whole different feeling when you hit the ball,” she said.

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