ASU softball's Alynah Torres prepares for season after breakout freshman year

The sophomore shortstop began her college career with nine home runs, tied for first on the team

The drive to Pasadena, California, from Tempe is roughly a five and a half hour straight shot on Interstate 10, heading west. Sporting a strong 22-7 record, the Sun Devils softball team embarked on the journey to Pasadena to meet its first Pac-12 opponent of the season in the UCLA Bruins for a March 13 game. 

One hour short of the team's destination, UCLA announced it would shut down spring sports; the first crack in the dam. Soon after, the levy broke and the NCAA canceled all remaining winter and spring 2020 championships. 

Alynah Torres, ASU's then-freshman shortstop, had to end her season while in the midst of a hot start. Now she is kicking off her sophomore season, determined to pick up where she left off and help deliver the Sun Devils a Women's College World Series berth.

To do so, Torres has prioritized consistency in all facets of the game during the offseason.

“I want to be consistent everywhere I am,” Torres said. “Fielding-wise, just making my routine plays, not trying to be too big, not trying to be too fancy. For hitting, just stay consistent in how I hit the ball."

Working on her bat has been a consistent part of her routine since she was first introduced into the sport by her father, she said.

“I hit every single day,” Torres said. “I have a batting cage in my backyard and every day growing up, my dad was my hitting coach. He teaches everything and he will incorporate what I learned here (at ASU) and then we’ll work on it. I know my hitting because of my dad, I guess I’ll give him that.”

The sacrifice of Torres' family, her father and the rest of her family, including her three dogs, Honey and Chichi the chihuahuas and her pit bull the “big man” Choco, throughout her softball career, and especially during the pandemic, drives her to become the player she knows she can be.

"I'm really big on family," Torres said. "Growing up, my parents sacrificed a lot. I played for a Tucson team and we played in California three to four times a month, and they spent a lot of money on me, but they always made sure I was there playing softball and so I try to give back to them and make sure that they don't have to worry about me in college."

Her teammates know her hitting is what makes her such a unique player. ASU fifth year catcher Maddi Hackbarth, who ended the 2020 season tied with Torres for the team lead in home runs, has mentored Torres in her hitting and other aspects since Torres arrived in Tempe.

“Right when we got here and got to start practicing I knew that she was a competitor, a baller,” Hackbarth said. “Then we started talking about hitting and everything started to click, and she would come to me and ask me questions. Being a senior, I knew that it was my responsibility to make sure that she was getting ready.”

Torres' fielding is an area her teammates already believe she excels in. Much like hitting, making routine plays is what Torres looks to do to make the jump to the next level.

“She has great eyes and she can read the ball off the bat really quick,” said Hackbarth. “I think that’s what makes her such a great shortstop. She knows where the ball is going right as the batter swings.”

Senior third baseman Kiara Kennedy knows how much cohesion is needed between the two positions to secure the left side of the diamond. 

“Alynah and I always go back and forth talking,” Kennedy said. “It’s something you really have to always do, especially on the left side. I feel like there’s a lot of balls that we see, especially in Pac-12 play, so there's a lot of communication between us two.”

With COVID-19 impacting the offseason and how the team can train, Torres has had to rely on her old batting cage at home as well as small group work with her teammates. Hackbarth is a frequent assistant in those practices, hitting balls to the infielders for extra work.

“She put her head down during the offseason,” Hackbarth said. “During the fall or whenever she could get extra work, she got it, whether that was in the weight room or on the field.”

Kennedy also noticed Torres' drive over the offseason and expects her to have a more vocal role on the team.

“I think she’s going to bring a lot of (leadership), and I’m excited to see what she brings to the field,” Kennedy said. “Since we have some freshmen coming in, from a defensive standpoint as a team, we’re going to have to grow knowing we’re a young team with her leadership.”

Consistency will drive Torres and the Sun Devils to her true goal for the season: the Women's College World Series.

“My first goal is to get to the World Series,” Torres said. “I’m a team-first player, so I want to win above everything.”

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