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ASU Softball: Upperclassmen outfield provides leadership for No. 16 Devils

The Sun Devil outfield has led the way

Brady Vernon/House of Sparky

It is a tradition that occurs after every out that is recorded at an ASU softball game. A play is made and the ball is thrown around the infield. In the outfield however, there is a different routine that occurs for the No. 16 Sun Devils.

Following an out, the outfielders take a glance toward left field. Then a dance move labeled “The Wave” is called into action. From left to right field, the wave travels and is brought all the way back to where it started in left field. It ends with an emphatic variation of the “Hit Dem Folks” dance move. That’s how you know an out has been made.

Welcome to the ASU outfield featuring senior Skylar McCarty, senior Morgan Howe, and junior Kindra Hackbarth.

“We are all goofballs so we all make each other laugh,” Howe said. “If one of us just got done having a really bad at-bat or something, someone is going to say something or do something that makes you realize it’s really not that important, it’s not that bad. We are laughing right after. As an athlete and a teammate, they just make you better.”

Brady Vernon/House of Sparky

The three Sun Devils patrolling the outfield are currently the top-3 in the batting order and they are leading the team in hitting. As a lead off, Hackbarth is at a scorching .424 average, while McCarty is hitting behind her with a .383 average, and Howe is in the 3-hole batting .349 with a team-leading 26 RBI’s.

“With me leading off...I know if I don’t get on, Sky will get on. Or if Sky doesn't get on, then we know about Mo,” Hackbarth said. “It’s kind of a thing where we kind of rely on each other more. I just feel like it’s our bond. We have a really tight bond.”

The trio has started and played in every game this season. They have been a 1-2-3 punch from left to right field. But aside from their offensive numbers, they can be seen making defensive highlights, such as when Hackbarth made a diving snag against No. 9 Texas just last Sunday.

Other instances have come up where any of the three players have come up big. Flash back to February 22 when ASU took on Nebraska. The Devils trailed 5-1 entering the bottom of the fourth inning.

That was no issue for two of the senior outfielders. Howe hit a grand slam to tie that game, then McCarty put it away with a game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Whether it’s doing “The Wave” after an out, or facing a 5-1 deficit in the bottom of the fourth inning, there’s no panic between the three of them. They play a loose, laid back brand of softball, and it’s mixed with a desire to come out victorious no matter what the situation.

“We could be losing and the pitcher could be throwing a no-hitter but we still believe that we are going to come back and beat them...We do get down after certain at-bats during a game, but it’s a thing where we look at each other and we just start laughing,” Hackbarth said.

The three players can constantly be heard chattering between one another during games. Howe yells something at McCarty in left, or Hackbarth says something to Howe, and it crosses paths between the three.

McCarty even noted she gets the attention of Hackbarth while they are across the outfield.

“We just try to make the game fun. We are always tied up to we need to win and we need to press...We just enjoy the game,” McCarty said. “We will be talking to each other from left to right field. What other team yells back and forth between one another?”

Among other goofy habits, the players have inside jokes they reiterate throughout a game. One of them is a “Threeee” call that they make after a great catch or throw, similar to a bench or crowd at a basketball game that hollers “Threee.” They also have categories they discuss in their pre-inning huddle before an inning begins. They have ranged from dance moves, Disney characters, and ice cream.

“We are the only three people that would think they are funny,” said Howe of the inside jokes. “...If we are down a couple runs or if it’s a slower game, we are all laughing with each other and we are all having fun. It keeps us motivated and involved.”

The displays lighten up the action and create a lot of fun between fans and players. That’s something McCarty and her counterparts take pride in when they play at home or on the road. It’s a part of the show that they are putting out for Sun Devil fans.

Although the goal is always to win in an intense atmosphere of Pac-12, Division I softball, McCarty, Howe, and Hackbarth bring out the light side of the game and they prove it’s still the same fun thing that they have been playing since they were kids.

“You are with 18 of your best friends (on the team). You are playing in front of all these people and they paid to watch you play. When you are tight and you feel the pressure, it’s not fun,” McCarty said.

Hackbarth added to McCarty’s point.

“You want to make a game that people enjoy watching. You want them to come out and pay to watch you play, but you want to have fun. They don’t want to see you down because it’s not fun to watch,” Hackbarth said.

Aside from the entertaining atmosphere that the players provide, there is another factor that has gone into their play this season. Howe and McCarty are seniors in their final ASU campaign. They are soaking it all in, and sculpting Hackbarth into a leader herself when she enters her final season next year.

“Being an upperclassmen this year, it’s actually nice because I have two other upperclassmen to kind of teach me more about the game, and teach me how to be a better leader because I feed off of their energy and I look up to them,” Hackbarth said. “Next year, I am going to be the only upperclassmen (in the outfield) so it’s going to be different.”

There’s no doubt that Hackbarth will miss both players after this year, but she wasn’t gloomy about the future. With freshmen outfielders like Olivia Miller, Makenna Harper, and Yannira Acuna waiting in the shadows, they can’t wait to see what they bring to the table.

“Next year, yeah, we will be sad because me and Mo won't be there but I don’t think their outfield will skip a beat,” McCarty said. “They will pick up right where they left off and it will be scary how good those freshmen will become because they are so good now.”

The freshmen of this season might have an observation year with the returning upperclassmen playing, and they will get their opportunity when it arises but in the meantime, Howe, Hackbarth and McCarty will continue to lead this year’s Sun Devil squad.

And they likely won’t do it with fiery intensity or a stone cold demeanor. Rather, they’ll laugh, relax, and play ball, just how they have always done. With Pac-12 play looming next weekend, more tests and challenges will be added in an elite softball conference. It’s the best time of year for the outfielders.

“I love my two outies (outfielders),” Howe said. “I mean I love all my outies, but the ones I see next to me day in and day out, I hope they know I love them. They are my best friends.”