Marisa Stankiewicz and Skylar McCarty are selflessly leading ASU softball

Stankiewicz and McCarty are both upperclassmen who do anything it takes to win this season

ASU junior outfielder Skylar McCarty and redshirt senior infielder Marisa Stankiewicz have come a long way since they were once adversaries in the 2012 AIA Division I High School playoffs in Arizona.

While both players did not know each other back then, the two upperclassmen now have a tight bond on the No. 13 team in the nation.

“She’s my best friend on the team,” Stankiewicz said of McCarty. “... She will call me and be like ‘Can we hit tonight?’, and it will be 9:30 at night, and I will be like ‘Yeah, I have nothing else to do. Let’s go hit.’”

Together, that is what the two local products have done, batting a combined .340 at the plate.

From late nights at the batting cage to playing together at ASU for three years, the two players have grown, and their ability to be honest and open with one another has helped them during their time with the program.

“It’s always awesome to have her as a partner when we do live reps because she will tell me if I am pulling out or if I am dipping my hands, and she will let me know right away, and it’s vice versa,” Stankiewicz said. “I think that’s just the type of relationship that we have right now. We will get on each other and it sounds kind of mean, but … I think that tough love mentality is really ‘Don’t listen to how it’s being said, but listen to what’s being said.’”

Stankiewicz noted that the “tough love” mentality not only runs through herself and McCarty, but through the entire team. The tough love has been beneficial, as the Sun Devils are off to a 22-3 start to their 2018 campaign.

Last year, McCarty was the everyday center fielder for ASU, predominantly hitting out of the one or two spot in the batting order as a left-handed slap-hitter with speed.

While McCarty is still capable of turning on the jets, her role and approach at the plate has changed this season.

With the addition of three Fresno State transfers, two of whom are outfielders, McCarty has not played in the field as much. But when she has gotten her opportunities, the junior has played all three positions in the outfield on a deep roster.

“We want that healthy competition,” ASU head coach Trisha Ford said. “It’s just keeping everybody fresh and getting everyone live at-bats and keep moving.”

Although she is still capable of playing solid defense, McCarty has found herself an alternative home in the designated player position, and she has done it with a different approach at the plate.

As a natural slap-hitter, McCarty has turned into a left-handed hitter with power, blasting her first home run on Sunday, while continuing to use a steady, opposite field approach at the dish.

“It was a lot of reps and a lot of time going into changing from being a slapper to being stationary in the box and to swing hard,” McCarty said of her transition. "We transformed into a hitter, and now slapping is my secondary (option at the plate).”

In addition to McCarty, Stankiewicz has shifted from her normal position at second base to play stints at first base, a position that she had never played prior to this season.

“Coach and I talked about it (playing first base),” Stankiewicz said. “I basically let her know that I will do whatever it takes to be on the field and help this team in any way that I can.”

With both returning players displaying selfless attitudes to help the team, the leadership of the upperclassmen could be reminiscent of someone who McCarty was influenced by – former ASU center fielder and Pac-12 first team selection Jenn Soria.

McCarty sat behind Soria in the outfield before being handed the keys to center field last season. Nevertheless, her time with the former ASU great provided some valuable learning experiences, and also some friendly competition that even drove McCarty crazy.

“She was the most obnoxious ... everything we did was a competition (with Soria),” McCarty said with a laugh. “We would be shagging balls, and every ball was five points, and I was like, ‘Jenn, why does it have to be like this?’ But now that we look at it, she has helped a lot. She pushed me a lot … I love her though. She is like an older sister to me.”

Now, two years since McCarty worked with Soria, a lot has changed. With a new head coach and nearly all new faces, Stankiewicz and McCarty could be looked upon as older leaders on a team filled with young talent. 

The Sun Devils will begin conference play against the No. 1 team in the nation, when the Washington Huskies come to Tempe for a three-game series this weekend. First pitch of game one is set for this Saturday, March 17 at 5 p.m. MST.

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