Juarez and Hackbarth have been a dynamic combo for ASU softball

Giselle "G" Juarez and Maddi Hackbarth have been on the same page all season, and they are only sophomores

ASU sophomore pitcher Giselle “G” Juarez has been in a world of her own for ASU softball this season. The southpaw is 17-1, has nearly a 8-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and on Sunday, she faced 59 batters in a 15-inning victory where she recorded every pitch.

Juarez recently picked up her first-career no-hitter just a week prior against BYU. Simply stated, the second-year left-hander has been unreal. 

With every great pitcher comes a catcher on the other end, and for Juarez, that backstop has been her sophomore counterpart, Maddi Hackbarth.

“We are really good friends, and it’s on and off the field,” Juarez said. “Our relationship is growing, and it’s been getting better as we go along.”

While Hackbarth and Juarez have been in unison with ASU, their relationship didn’t begin in Tempe.

Juarez, who was once committed to play her collegiate softball at Fresno State before electing to attend ASU, met Hackbarth on an official visit with the Bulldogs a couple of years ago. 

With current ASU head coach Trisha Ford coaching Fresno State at the time, both players were recruited by Ford. Hackbarth played one season with Fresno State last year before deciding to rejoin her head coach this season with the Sun Devils.

Nonetheless, the initial interaction between the pitcher and catcher occurred while they were in high school, and they were among the first recruits to arrive in Fresno for their official visits. 

“We were the first ones there, so our families met. It was kind of awkward,” Hackbarth said. “We were both very shy and didn’t say much … I hung out with her a little bit, but we really weren’t talking.”

Needless to say, a lot has changed between the sophomore battery since that time. With both players now at ASU, they have become a dynamic tandem. 

Juarez and Hackbarth have been in sync, and it has allowed the sophomore left-hander to become comfortable with a new catcher after last year’s starter, Sashel Palacios (who is still with ASU as a graduate assistant), graduated last spring.

“Sash (Sashel) was older, so she had a little bit more wisdom than me,” Juarez said of working with Palacios. “Me and Maddi, we have two more years together … It brings joy to me because we have two more years and I don’t have to worry about a catcher leaving.”

Stepping into the starting catcher’s spot this season, it took Hackbarth some time to get accustomed to Juarez.

Ask any player who has faced the sophomore phenom and they will tell you that she has a different type of spin on her ball, sometimes making opposing hitters look like they have holes in their bats with the late movement that Juarez has on her pitches.

The movement can not only be difficult on hitters, but it can become an issue for catchers if they are not accustomed to the late break.

“G really appreciates how hard Maddi works and she understands that she is difficult to catch,” Ford said. “Maddi makes her look better and she (G) understands how important it is … behind every great pitcher is an even better catcher.”

Aside from the intricacies of Juarez’s delivery and movement, the duo has gained chemistry outside of the diamond. Hackbarth noted that herself and Juarez love to give each other grief, and they will tease one another, whether it’s with a sarcastic attitude during games and practices or even pulling pranks on one another.

And while Hackbarth has become comfortable with Juarez’s pitches, she is still puzzled by something that she learned about Juarez all the way back to when the two players had lunch during their official visit at Fresno State.

“I learned about her allergy. I had a bunch of questions about that,” Hackbarth said with a laugh. “She’s allergic to dairy. She can’t have any dairy products.”

Hackbarth mentioned that she and Juarez usually sit next to one another during meals on road trips. The catcher not only looks out for her pitcher in the circle, but since finding out more about the allergy, she has become a lookout for the ace of the ASU pitching staff.

“I am like a protective little sister. She can’t have dairy, so if you (a waiter or server) bring it out, you are going to have to send it right back, so remember no dairy,” Hackbarth said.

From somewhat of a quiet first meeting to now looking out for each other’s allergies, the bond between Hackbarth and Juarez has blossomed, and perhaps the best days for the sophomores have yet to come.

“With what she (G) has done already, I can’t wait,” Hackbarth said of the future. “It’s going to be fun and exciting, and I can’t wait to see what she is going to do. She works her butt off, so it should be fun and I am really excited. I wish I had four years (with her), and I wish I had gotten here last year to be with her and Coach Ford … She’s going to do big things.”

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

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