Freshman class has helped shape No. 8 ASU softball

The Sun Devils are getting major production out of their freshman class

Depth on a college team doesn't always fall on upperclassmen and leadership. It can also include freshman that are stepping up and performing at a high level.

The ASU softball freshmen have taken this message to heart, and while all the freshmen have a role on the team, infielders Denae Chatman, Bella Loomis and Danielle Gibson have stolen the show.

The trio has combined to pick up every base hit recorded by a Sun Devil freshman (58) and has appeared in a combined 78 games.

Gibson has lead the pack thus far, slashing a .413 average and .837 slugging percentage, allowing head coach Trisha Ford to pencil her into the four spot almost every game. The infielder's performance also earned her a Pac-12 Freshman of the Week award.

“It’s pretty awesome – it still hasn’t really sunk in,” Gibson said. “I never thought I’d be here as a freshman at this point.”

Gibson said she and the rest of her class are just hungry for any opportunity that Ford throws their way. Each are just trying to prove their place on the team not only in 2018, but also in the future.

“(Loomis) is a great infielder, and (Chatman) can put up good, hard swings on the ball,” Gibson said. “It’s just being able to have confidence in ourselves. We are gritty, so this is a good class for us.”

Chatman has become one of the Sun Devils' go-to pinch hitters. She has started only five of the 18 games she has appeared in, but despite the scattered appearances, she is hitting .292 with a home run and four RBIs.

Loomis has made a name for herself in the field, and Ford has taken full advantage of her versatility, naming her the backup to nearly every position in the infield.

“Bella works her tail off,” Ford said. “To be thrusted into that, not only learning the new system, being a freshman, acclimating to college, and 'P.S. you’re the back up for our third base, short stop and second,' she has really handled that well.”

However, the adjustment to college wasn't as easy as these freshmen make it seem.

Between joining the No. 8 team in the nation and balancing a full schedule of classes with a social life, Chatman admitted that she and the other freshmen feel a little stressed at times.

“Our schedule is packed,” Chatman said. “It’s nice being able to go to school and then come here (to softball) and be with all your friends, your sisters.”

Both Gibson and Loomis agreed with their teammate, adding that they saw coming to practice and being around the team as a type of stress relief.

Perhaps the biggest adjustment that the infielders were forced to make was the elevated level of competition that comes with every at-bat of college softball.

“It is not like high school or club ball where you get the teams that are (just) alright,” Gibson said. “Everybody is good, every pitcher is good, every player has the opportunity to be an All American.”

Gibson said facing pitchers like senior Breanna Macha and sophomore Giselle "G" Juarez in practice have helped prepare her and build up her confidence for when she is facing the ace pitcher from other teams.

Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Gibson was not shy about her expectations for the team and the freshman class. 

“I think now we’ve really realized our potential,” Gibson said. “We are excited for postseason and the rest of Pac-12.”

Loomis and Chatman, both non-starters, expressed their desire to help the team in any way they can down the stretch, but for these infielders and the rest of their class, the fun is just getting started.

“I’m playing a lot right now, (but) I’m trying to soak everything in,” Loomis said. “I’m looking forward to these next few years very much.”


  Reach the reporter at Joshua.Zaklis@asu.edu and follow @JoshZaklis on Twitter.

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