Maddi Hackbarth didn’t develop into one of the top players in NCAA Division-I softball by doing the bare minimum.
The former Ceres Youth Baseball & Softball Organization alum’s desire to be great fueled her.
Hackbarth, a fifth-year catcher at Arizona State, currently leads the Pac-12 conference in home runs (17) and RBIs (48).
“I’m very grateful and blessed to be where I’m at,” said Hackbarth, who attended elementary school and junior high in Ceres prior to completing her secondary education in Oakdale. “The biggest thing for me this year is I did a lot of stuff in the offseason. I got a trainer and a nutritionist. I met with a sports psychiatrist. I really shocked my body and mind. That was the game changer for me. I came back a whole different person—mentally, emotionally and physically. I’m happy I chose the uncomfortable route.”
Hackbarth ranked 52nd on Softball America’s Preseason College Top 100 list on Jan. 5. She was named a Preseason Third-Team All-American by the publication on Feb. 8.
“I don’t pay attention to that kind of stuff,” she said. “I used to. Rankings are rankings. Those are people’s opinions.”
Hackbarth batted .416 with 17 homers, 12 doubles, 48 RBIs, 27 runs and 16 walks through the Sun Devils’ first 34 games of the 2021 season. Arizona State improved to 24-10 and 6-6 in the Pac-12 this past week.
“Hitting is hard,” said Hackbarth, who’s filled a key role in helping Arizona State climb to No. 13 in the NFCA Coaches Poll. “I keep it very simple. When I see the ball over the plate, I’m mashing. I’m more calm when I get into deeper counts. I also take walks. I just need to produce.”
Hackbarth had her senior season cut short this past spring due to the coronavirus pandemic.
She batted .350 with nine homers, one triple, nine doubles, 32 RBIs and 21 runs as the Sun Devils posted a 22-7 record and ranked 15th in the nation. She ended the season with a seven-game hitting streak. Hackbarth’s .835 slugging percentage ranked first in the Pac-12.
Hackbarth and all spring student-athletes impacted by the COVID-19 shutdown were granted an additional year of eligibility.
Hackbarth and Arizona State teammates Kindra Hackbarth, Cielo Meza and Alli Tatnall all decided to return for one final season.
Kindra, Maddi’s twin sister, is a standout hitter/outfielder.
“I’m grateful the NCAA let us play again. We came back for each other. Our story wasn’t done being written. We still have the same goal. We want to get to the World Series.”Maddi Hackbarth
“I’m grateful the NCAA let us play again,” Maddi said. “We came back for each other. Our story wasn’t done being written. We still have the same goal. We want to get to the World Series.”
Maddi Hackbarth has improved each season at Arizona State.
She currently ranks fifth on the Sun Devils’ career home run list with 51.
“Look at Maddi her first year and look at Maddi today,” Sun Devils’ head coach Trisha Ford said. “I think it’s a totally different player.
“She’s done a great job at being disciplined with her zone. And when Maddi is at her best, she’s driving balls opposite field, and her direction is really good.”
“I’m having the type of fun that I had when I was 7 or 8,” Hackbarth said. “I love the game and I’m passionate about it. I was lost for a little bit. To have little girls look up to you is amazing. This is a privilege. I get to play softball for a living. I don’t have to work a 9-5 job.”
Hackbarth fell one homer shy of tying the Sun Devils’ single-season record during her junior year. She’s on pace to surpass Cheyenne Coyle’s and Kaitlin Cochran’s mark of 20 this season.
“I’ll probably be in tears when it happens,” she said. “It’s been a journey with what I’ve gone through the last couple years. It’s crazy how it all worked out.”
Hackbarth struggled during her first two years at the college level.
She batted .175 with six homers, four doubles, 27 RBIs and 12 runs while playing in 55 games sophomore year.
Hackbarth spent her freshman year at Fresno State, where her season was cut short by injury.
She hit .185 with two homers, one double, 10 RBIs, five runs and 14 strikeouts in 26 games.
She had on-base and slugging percentages of .243 and .292, respectively.
“Anything is possible,” Hackbarth said. “You can come from being down, and being lost, to not knowing who you are, to becoming who you always wanted to be playing at this level. I’m always trying to get better as a person and player. Don’t settle. That’s the biggest thing that has helped me. I’ve sacrificed a lot for this sport. I’ve had an amazing support system. My family is incredible.”
Maddi and Kindra have been teammates since the age of four.
They live together in Arizona.
“College has brought us a lot closer,” Maddi said. “Without each other, it would have been harder. It’s made us stronger off and on the field. She knows I love her and I wouldn’t have wanted to do this without her. I will always hype her up and think she’s the best softball player. She doesn’t get enough credit for what she does. She’s in the running to have her jersey retired here. I think that’s incredible.”
Maddi will also be remembered as one of Arizona State’s all-time greatest players.
“A lot of people have been expecting this out of me, especially my coaches,” she said. “They’ve seen the hard work I’ve put in. They see how badly I want it. This is what I’m supposed to be doing. I knew I was capable of it. I just needed guidance from my coaches and family.”