Meet 'The Funky Bunch' for ASU softball

Marisa Stankiewicz, Skylar McCarty and Jade Gortarez have forged a unique bond with ASU

It’s been more than two decades since Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch performed in a live concert.

While the former hip-hop group might be a distant memory for a lot of people, the No. 8 ASU softball team is performing on a high level with their own “Funky Bunch.”

ASU redshirt senior infielder Marisa Stankiewicz, junior outfielder Skylar McCarty and sophomore shortstop Jade Gortarez have all forged a close bond in this year’s Sun Devil squad, which has allowed them to coin the nickname "The Funky Bunch.”

“Those are my girls … we joke around and call ourselves 'The Funky Bunch' because we always just want to have fun,” Stankiewicz said. “We don’t always try to take anything too seriously on the field or off the field … it’s just our personality.”

The three players garnered the nickname during ASU’s fall workouts, with Gortarez noting that the team was looking to come up with some nicknames for her fellow teammates.

During her time with the U.S. national women’s baseball team over the summer, ASU’s sophomore shortstop noted that they would often come up with funny nicknames for teammates, and that tradition carried over into the fall with ASU.

“We had boy names, and it was Marky Mark, which was Marisa, so somebody gave the idea of having The Funky Bunch,” McCarty said with a laugh. “It was one of those things where it starts (with the nicknames), and it continues to downfall.”

With Gortarez transferring to ASU this year, and Stankiewicz and McCarty having a couple of years under their belts with the program, the trio of players established a friendship in a setting off the field.

Similar to a dilemma that many college students come to face when arriving at a new school, Gortarez didn’t have a car. Therefore, while in search of a ride to home games and practices, Gortarez found a carpool with a couple of the upperclassmen on the ASU roster.

“Right from the get-go, we asked her to hang out with trying to bring in all of these transfers into our family,” Stankiewicz said of Gortarez. “She didn’t have a car, so we would always have to pick her up and we joke around, that’s how our friendship started. We always had to pick her up, and so she kind of just got stuck with us. At the end of the day, it’s the greatest thing that ever happened.”

The trifecta still ventures to games and practices together, and for Gortarez, the ability to adjust in a new environment with a group of close friends has helped translate to being a leader in the middle of the diamond for the Sun Devils

“She had a big spot to fill, and I think she has done an amazing job of coming in and knowing her role,” McCarty said of Gortarez. “If I didn’t know who Jade was or if I didn’t know she was a sophomore, I would think she was a senior with just how she carries herself. She’s very smart … she makes the hard plays look easy (at shortstop).”

In her first season in the maroon and gold, Gortarez has been nothing but stellar and consistent, and she has solidified the middle of the infield alongside Stankiewicz at second base.

“At the beginning of the year, they were just really the two that took charge in looking out for me … it’s hard making new friends in a new place, but everybody was so open to me and just accepting of me being here,” Gortarez said. “At first, I was really quiet in the car (with Stankiewicz and McCarty), but now we are non-stop talking on the field, in the car, or anywhere.”

As for what makes the group get along so well, all three players distinguished that they have different personalities, but the different traits that they bring to each other’s lives have helped them in creating a unique chemistry both on and off the field.

Whether it’s been working on something at the plate or divulging into some of the stress that comes with being a full-time Division I student athlete, the connection between the players has assisted them during a rigorous slate of Pac-12 softball.

With all three players in different classes, Stankiewicz’s collegiate career is dwindling into the latter stages of her final season, and although there might only be one full year of the Funky Bunch, the group has cemented a connection that will likely extend beyond the realm of just their playing days in Tempe.

“At this point, we are ingrained in each other’s families,” McCarty said. “I am the Stankiewicz’s fifth kid and Marisa is the third of the McCarty family. We take family pictures with each other’s families. We are already ingrained … it’s a big tribe.”


Reach the reporter at atbell1@asu.edu or follow @AndrewBell7 on Twitter.

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