It was one of the bigger stories coming into the season for the No. 7 Sun Devils: Who was going to fill the offensive voids of former players and current grad assistants Sashel Palacios and Chelsea Gonzales?
With transfers and veterans galore, one outstanding freshman has certainly delivered.
Danielle Gibson, a product of Murrieta, California, has shown great presence just halfway through her first collegiate season.
“I’ve been able to capitalize when there are runners on base,” Gibson said. “I feel like as long as I do my job — whatever spot in the order I’m in — I gotta see a good pitch and hit it.”
The highly touted freshman has proven her hitting mentality in her statistics this season. She currently leads the team in batting average (.413), doubles (nine), home runs (10), runs batted in (29), total bases (77), slugging percentage (.837) and on-base percentage (.495). She also has struck out the least times with the minimum at-bats with eight.
She really began to hit her stride during the Mary Nutter tournament in February where she hit two home runs over a stretch of five games. From then on, she tore up opposing pitchers, carrying her offense from series to series, including against No. 1 Washington. In that series she drove in all four runs in both of ASU’s victories.
“Taran Alvelo is a great pitcher,” Gibson said recalling the Washington series. “Being able to hit off her and gain confidence off her makes me feel like if I can hit off her, I can hit off anybody.”
Her performance against Washington and then in the following series against No. 24 California earned her Pac-12 Freshman of the Week.
“It’s awesome. It’s crazy. I never thought I would be here as a freshman at this point,” Gibson said after the announcement.
“‘Gibby’ loves to be out here,” head coach Trisha Ford said. “She is a student of the game. She wants to be there for her team. She is also one of the best teammates. If you ask anyone they love ‘Gibby’.”
Who better to ask about a young first baseman than the player that spends the most time on the field with her? Redshirt senior second baseman Marisa Stankiewicz.
“I absolutely love everything about her,” Stankiewicz said without hesitation. “Defensively we are communicating between every pitch, every play and it is something that, me as a senior and she as a freshman, we need to know to be on the same page. She is carrying herself very well.”
In her senior year of high school, Gibson earned All-Southwest MVP honors and led her high school’s entire league in batting average, on base percentage, RBIs and home runs. She was recruited heavily by Alabama, UCLA and reigning national champion Oklahoma.
“Honestly, I stepped foot on campus, and it was like ‘wow this is it’,” Gibson said, recalling her ASU visit. “I just felt to my heart this is where I am supposed to be and now I am really happy I stuck with my gut.”
Coming into a program as storied as Arizona State can be rather intimidating as a freshman. Gibson was no exception. She saw the pitching staff led by senior Breanna Macha and the rise of sophomore Giselle ‘G’ Juarez and saw it two ways: In fear and as an advantage.
“Facing them has really been able to help me and be ready to see any pitching,” Gibson remarks. “If you can hit off ‘G’ you can hit off anybody. She’s been able to really build my confidence up.”
Both Gibson and Juarez have created not only a strong presence for opponents, but a strong bond as teammates, nicknamed ‘The G-Train’ and ‘The Twin Towers’ by teammates and coach Ford.
It is no easy feat to receive the attention and the accolades Gibson has received early on, but a support system from the organization keeps her focused throughout the season.
“We have life meetings to be able to talk about life and how we are feeling,” Gibson explained. “School is hard, but a lot of students don’t have that place to go to feel at home. Being at practice is just a big stress reliever and place where I can be myself.”
The ASU Softball program is continuing to grow. Behind Gibson, the Sun Devil offense has outscored opponents 209 to 60. They reach base 17 percent more than their opponents, and have sent 42 softballs over the fence.
Gibson is just one of many outstanding freshman like Bella Loomis and DeNae Chatman to already make marks on the Sun Devil squad. and with more years on the horizon, the “G-Train” has endless potential.