Yannira Acuña Keeps It Simple To Help Arizona State Soar
Yannira Acuña began her 2022 campaign for the Arizona State Sun Devils fresh off a career-best season that saw her hit seven home runs, rack up 23 hits, 15 RBIs, six doubles and a batting average of .311.
This season has brought much of the same success at the plate for Acuña, except at a whole different level.
Through 45 games, the senior outfielder has 50 hits, 53 runs, 16 doubles, 12 home runs, 36 RBIs and is batting .420.
What is the difference between the two seasons? According to Acuña, it’s simply about going back to basics.
“I just keep it simple. It’s just a game. I’m very competitive,” said Acuña. “Me and Cyd Sanders, our first baseman, we’re just always like, ‘Hey, you see the ball and you hit it, just keep it simple.’”
The Sun Devils haven’t had much to worry about this season, as they near the end of the regular season with a 37-8 record overall and a record of 18-3 in Pac-12 play. From March 6 to April 22, Arizona State won 20 straight games, including three-game sweeps of Oregon State, Arizona, Oregon and Utah. The 2022 squad has not lost back-to-back games all season and recently finished off a series win over UCLA, tightening its grip on first place in the conference.
One of the traditions of this year’s team is the honor of having the pitchfork. If a player hits a home run, the hitter rounds the bases, crosses the plate and then a pitchfork is thrown to the lucky slugger, who hammers it down in triumph. The idea came to Acuña after browsing Twitter one day.
“We used to have a paddle, because last year our motto was ‘on the boat,’” said Acuña. “I kind of stole the idea from a baseball team on Twitter and they had a hammer—a guy who tossed it and a guy hammered it down. I was like, ‘Guys, we could do this with a pitchfork, let’s do it!’”
The idea quickly became the team's new home run tradition and has been done 89 times this season alone. For a team that already likes to get fired up, it just adds to the group’s intensity, according to Acuña.
“It’s awesome, you see your teammates waiting for you by the dugout when you hit a home run, they toss you the fork and it’s just so electric,” said Acuña. “It’s fun being that person to do that because you know all your teammates are very proud of you. It’s just a great feeling to be able to grab a fork and swing it down.”
Arizona State also has a successful pitching staff this year. The team ERA is 2.40, with junior Lindsay Lopez leading the team in ERA, senior Marissa Schuld leading the team in strikeouts and freshman Mac Morgan leading the team in wins.
When comparing this team to last year’s team, it’s the pitching that has made the biggest difference, according to Acuña.
“Our pitchers have really grinded out through the season so far and they’ve been doing great,” said Acuña. “Last year we were a great hitting team, this year we’re a great hitting team. I feel that ASU is known for hitting, but I feel like the pitching is what’s really helping us this year.”
The Sun Devils are trying to make it to a super regional for the first time since 2018, which is also the last time the program made it to Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series. In order to get there, it will take a high level of competitiveness, which is something Acuña knows her team does not lack at all.
“A lot of the girls are very competitive, especially on the field when we're playing,” said Acuña. “Nobody likes to lose. I feel like we're poor losers. When we lost against Stanford, we got on the bus and nobody said anything.”
It is also a team that looks out for one another, according to Acuña, which she believes will help carry the Sun Devils deep into the postseason.
“We're a team, we're one, so we help each other out, we hold each other accountable and it's not a freshman's job, it’s not a sophomore's job, it’s everybody's job,” said Acuña. “That’s what makes us great, that we all pick each other up, regardless of how old you are, what class you're in, it doesn't matter. It’s more about being a good person, being a good teammate and being there for each other.”