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Vernon: The press box view of the WunderTwins

Thoughts on two All-American twins

Courtesy of the Hackbarth family

When I walked up the stairs at Farrington Stadium for the first time on February 8, 2018, I didn’t have a ton of in-depth knowledge about the game of softball. I certainly didn’t know a ton about the Arizona State softball program.

I did get an understanding that a pair of twins, Maddi and Kindra Hackbarth, who transferred in from Fresno State, were going to have a role on that eventual 2018 Women’s College World Series team.

I did not know that I’d be watching two girls develop into All-Americans and that they would help me become obsessed with the game of softball.

In their Sun Devil debut, Maddi launched a home run and had three RBIs against Tennessee. Kindra collected a pair of hits. Those would be the firsts in their successful journeys at Arizona State. It’s the stories between that night and their upcoming senior day that makes the Hackbarth twins as special as they are on the softball field.

Let’s start with Maddi. From that night and until now I’ve seen a lot of home runs off her bat, 52 to be exact. However, she wasn’t this fantastic hitter that hit the ground running from day one. That first season in Tempe she hit under .200, she only finished with six home runs.

Maddi had her struggles. It’s how she responded to them that’s so incredible. She put her head down, she told herself she wanted to be part of something special, hold a record. She’s almost set the single-season home run record this year because she searched for any way possible to create the best version of herself. Maddi’s batting average got better each season, she cut down her strikeouts, she continued to get better despite playing in the Pac-12, which most can’t say that.

The Arizona State catcher’s defense has been forgotten about since her offense has gotten better. Maddi had a huge part in Giselle “G” Juarez’s All-American season in the circle back in 2018. Maddi also had to learn an entire new pitching staff in 2019 following the 2018 WCWS run. It’s also no secret that Arizona State is going through the 2021 conference season primarily using two pitchers who had no prior experience in Pac-12 play. It helps having a mature catcher back there.

Part of the reason we enjoy sports so much is seeing these athletes set dreams and goals for themselves. Maddi did just that, she worked her butt off to achieve what she wanted to, and it’s been so cool to watch over time.

That night against Tennessee, Kindra was asked to be a speedy slap-hitter in the nine-hole to flip the lineup over. That didn’t last very long. Kindra is now one of the most dynamic leadoff hitters across the nation that presents power, speed, and the ability to play the short-game.

I don’t think her defense was ever recognized like it should. There’s plenty of dives and throwing highlights from the outfielder. Her range in the grass helps limit hits to singles and allows her to make the diving catches that she does.

I personally will always believe that Kindra and UCLA’s Briana Perez are the most underrated players in the country. Let’s think about this for a second. Kindra has hit 16 home runs in a season. She’s hit over .400 in a season. Multiple seasons of double-digit stolen bags. The previously mentioned highlights on defense. She literally has a cycle attached to her name.

Then there’s this. In three and half seasons as a Sun Devil, Kindra Hackbarth ranks in the top-20 in program history in hits, batting average, home runs, doubles, triples, stolen bases, and RBI.

None of that is the best part of Kindra’s game. It’s the ear-to-ear bright smile that she plays with almost emulating little kids enjoying the first time they play the game. That’s happiness, happiness playing a game, happiness that wasn’t there at Fresno State. I truly think Kindra needed Arizona State and to reunite with Coach Ford, but Arizona State softball desperately needed a superstar to help correct a path it was on for a few years before Ford’s arrival, and Arizona State softball really needed a Kindra Hackbarth.

There’s not many softball programs that ask players to be available to the media following every single game. Nevertheless, Maddi and Kindra have answered every question I’ve had for them whether that be over Zoom or in Oklahoma City. It’s a thanks to them, their parents, Mary and Paul, for every softball and non-softball conversation. I hope every Sun Devil fan was able to appreciate and watch these twins play at such a high level and it’s really been a pleasure the past four years.