Nation's RBI Leader Kristin Fifield Hungry For More With GCU
In 2022, Grand Canyon University made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. Under first-year head coach Shanon Hays, the Antelopes traveled to the Los Angeles Regional to take on the UCLA Bruins. The high-powered Bruin offense took control early and won the matchup, 12-1.
Fast forward one year, and it was time for a rematch. After winning the Western Athletic Conference Tournament (WAC) for the second year in a row, the Lopes again went into Easton Stadium with the season on the line. This time, however, the team went in with a different outlook.
“Honestly, we felt super confident,” said graduate student Kristin Fifield. “We were going in there with this mindset of, ‘it’s just softball, it’s just another team.’ We were all ready to get after it. We were ready to show who the real Grand Canyon was.”
And by the end of the night, the real Grand Canyon did show up, and in a big way. Behind a three-run home run from senior Madison Schaefer, GCU defeated UCLA, 3-2, stunning the capacity crowd. It was a moment that even now, months later, still leaves Fifield speechless.
“That experience was unreal,” said Fifield. “I still have no words to describe the (thoughts) that were going through my mind. Honestly, for everyone, we’re all still so speechless from that win and the experience that it brought and all the opportunities it gave us.”
Just getting to that moment may not have been possible without the season that Fifield had. The WAC Female Athlete of the Year led the nation in RBIs with 85, 14 more than the second-place finisher. She also hit for a .346 batting average with 65 hits, 21 home runs, 19 doubles and 65 runs scored. Additionally, she is now the all-time program leader in RBIs and home runs, with one full season yet to come.
A Texas native, Fifield grew up watching her sister practice and play collegiately at the University of Texas at El Paso. At first as just a spectator, she mimicked everything her sister did on the field. Eventually, that turned into a love for the game.
She began to play travel ball with the Thundercats in Phoenix, Ariz., under the tutelage of Arizona great Laura Espinoza-Watson. With GCU just down the road and other schools also nearby, opportunities arrived for Fifield to showcase her talent. After touring GCU’s campus and meeting the coaching staff, it was an easy decision for Fifield to choose her next step.
“They’re super family-oriented, which was really good for me being away from home for the first time,” said Fifield. “They really helped me and built me into the (person) I am today.”
All her success did not come easily, however. According to Fifield, it has been a process built on trust of both herself and her coaches. In previous years, she said, that trust was not always there.
“I think once I started to believe in and trust that what (Coach Hays) was doing was going to work in the game, it started to become almost like muscle memory and just natural,” she said. “There were times before where I was just all in my head and I didn’t trust what I was doing.”
Under Hays, the Lopes have gone 86-29 with 36 conference wins. After hitting .321 as a team last season, the lineup for this coming campaign looks just as formidable.
In addition to the return of Fifield, infielder Ramsay Lopez is also back after hitting 18 bombs and driving in 61 runs in 2022. From the transfer portal, the Lopes also added senior Ashley Trierweiler, who ranked second in Division I in batting average last year, hitting .486 for Santa Clara.
In the circle, junior Meghan Golden is back after leading the team in wins (14), ERA (2.06) and strikeouts (117) in 2023. Graduate student Ariel Thompson, who racked up 12 wins of her own, also returns.
For Fifield, it will be the final chapter of a memorable collegiate career, but also another chance for her to display the hard work she wants to be remembered for.
“I hope people will remember the love I had for the game, the love I had for my teammates (and) the coaching staff and just all the hard work I did,” Fifield said.