Softball welcomes Burkhart’s return as opposing coach

Annie Lockwood hits the ball in a game against Northwestern on Feb. 10. Lockwood is one of four outfielders batting .350 or above. (Photo by Lisa Bartoli)

A homecoming for a past champion will highlight No. 5 ASU softball’s four games versus Central Connecticut State this weekend.

Former ASU pitcher Katie Burkhart, who holds most of the school’s career pitching records, will return to competition Farrington Stadium this Thursday, but this time she will be the pitching coach of the visiting team.

Burkhart was the first overall pick in the National Pro Fastpitch Senior Draft in 2008 after throwing a shutout against Texas A&M to clinch ASU’s first national championship.

“Katie Burkhart is a rock star,” senior pitcher Hillary Bach said. “She has always been nothing but nice to me. I know the fans are super excited to have her back. It will be great to see her. She means a lot to this program.”

After Burkhart left the program, Bach stepped into her shoes right out of high school and kept up the momentum Burkhart started.

ASU coach Clint Myers, who inherited Burkhart as a sophomore, built a foundation for success starting with the pitcher in 2006.

Yet Burkhart said she is still learning from her former coach as she starts a new chapter of her softball career.

“I owe a lot to coach Myers,” Burkhart said. “In a way, he is very much so a father figure in my life, and it’s hard to say that about a lot of coaches. It’s been a blessing through the years.”

This will be the first time ASU (10–2) will play an opponent multiple times this season.

“When we face teams back-to-back, it’s important to take care of the little things,” Bach said. “I notice tendencies of hitters, and I learn from other mistakes. So by the third game we are ready to go, all guns blazing.”

While four games against an opponent that is picked to finish sixth in the Northeast Conference might look like an easy task for a top-five team, Myers has been adamant about not overlooking the opposition, drawing on the whole team to contribute.

“If you don’t come ready to play, any team can beat you,” Myers said. “Being heavily favored, we can’t worry about that. We expect a different hero each and every night.”

The heroes at the plate so far have been the outfielders. However, with freshman Elizabeth Caporuscio, sophomores Alix Johnson and Bailey Wigness, and senior Annie Lockwood all playing well and batting over .350, the outfield is getting a bit crowded.

“If it comes to a situation where we need bats, we haven’t really gotten the production offensively out of the first and third basemen,” Myers said. “If it’s a situation where we have got some hot bats we need to look at, they may have to come back to the infield. If that does happen, we try and train to prepare for anything.”

Myers talked about Lockwood playing first and possibly having Wigness play third base, calling those circumstances as a “weapon in the team’s arsenal.”

Reach the reporter at jjmckelv@asu.edu

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