Sophomore slugger putting up historic numbers

By: Steve Andrews, Special to the NWA Democrat-Gazette
Published: Friday, May 3, 2019
Arkansas baserunner Hannah McEwen rounds third base to score a run against Arkansas-Pine Bluff during an NCAA softball game on Tuesday, April 16, 2019 in Fayetteville. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)
Arkansas baserunner Hannah McEwen rounds third base to score a run against Arkansas-Pine Bluff during an NCAA softball game on Tuesday, April 16, 2019 in Fayetteville. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)

FAYETTEVILLE -- Each time Hannah McEwen steps to the plate, history is likely in the making.

With a simple "see strike, hit strike" approach, the sophomore outfielder for the No. 20 Arkansas softball team is attempting to become the first Razorback in the program's 23-year history to finish the season with a .400 batting average.

At A Glance

College Softball

At Bogle Park, Fayetteville

FAST FACTS

No. 20 ARKANSAS

COACH Courtney Deifel

RECORD 35-17, 9-12 SEC

EYE ON RHP Mary Haff (17-11, 7 Shutouts, 173 Ks), RF Katie Warrick (.333, 10 HRs, 10 2Bs), DH Danielle Gibson (.355, 11 HRs, 43 RBIs).

No. 23 AUBURN

COACH Mickey Dean

RECORD 35-15, 10-11 SEC

EYE ON 3B Tannon Snow (.352, 13 HRs, 45 RBIs), C Kendall Veach (.311, 19 HRs, 46 RBIs), RHP Makayla Martin (11-2, 1.31 ERA, 86 Ks)

SERIES SCHEDULE

TODAY Auburn vs. Arkansas, 6 p.m.

SATURDAY Auburn vs. Arkansas, 5 p.m.

SUNDAY Auburn vs. Arkansas, 1 p.m.

SHORT HOPS Arkansas outhit Texas A&M in all three games last weekend, despite only winning one of the games … Razorback catcher Kayla Green has thrown out 8 of 13 baserunners trying to steal this season … Auburn pitcher Chardonnay Harris was named co-SEC Pitcher of the Week after striking out 17 batters in a win over No. 7 Florida last weekend.

ONLINE arkansasrazorbacks.com

— Steve Andrews • Special to the NWA Democrat-Gazette

McEwen currently leads the team at .399 and only a home series against No. 23 Auburn (35-15, 10-11) remaining on the schedule before the SEC and NCAA Tournaments begin. The three-game series with the Tigers gets underway with Game 1 at 6 p.m. today in Bogle Park.

The Razorbacks (35-17, 9-12 SEC) will be counting on their leadoff hitter to ignite the offense.

"This year I have just tried to get on base and allow my teammates to have opportunities to do things," McEwen said. "It doesn't matter to me if I get the big hit or someone else does, as long as we get it done.

"I try not to over analyze when I'm in the box, because too many thoughts can just be a distraction."

After a breakout freshman season in which she led the team with a .339 average, 12 home runs and 57 runs batted in, the California native is now poised to have the highest single-season batting average in school history, topping Stephanie Canfield's average of .381 in 2013.

"She's just so incredibly consistent and she very rarely has a bad at-bat, ever," Arkansas coach Courtney Deifel said. "She always knows what she wants to do. She knows what she is looking for."

Deifel is also quick to point out McEwen's .424 average in SEC games this season, third-highest in the conference.

"She has continued to get better and more consistent as the season has gone on," Diefel said. "And really, against better competition."

Her power numbers have dropped from a year ago, but that is more by design.

"This year I think I have been more consistent by just trying to make contact and put the ball in play," she said. "I have just focused on ways to get it done, instead of how it's getting done."

Amazingly, in 408 career plate appearances, McEwen has a two-year .367 average with only 22 strikeouts and 40 walks. She has scored 86 runs and has never hit into a double-play.

"She may swing at a bad pitch every once in a long while, but then that is last time you are going to get that," Deifel said. "She is just such a student of the game and has such a balanced perspective of how she approaches it.

"The bat control that she has, the eye that she has for the zone and her hand-eye coordination is just on another level. And those are things you really can't teach."

McEwen has a calm demeanor in the batter's box, rarely showing any facial expressions, and prepares to simply react to what she is pitched.

"I'm definitely very calm in the box. I trust myself a lot," she said. "And this year I have the advantage of having been in these moments, playing in the SEC for a season, and facing a lot of the same pitchers that we have faced before. It just makes it easier having the confidence that I have done this before.

"Believing in yourself can take you a lot further than anything else will."

McEwen capped her stellar prep career at San Diego's Patrick Henry High School by being named the California Interscholastic Federation's Western League Most Valuable Player. A multi-time league honoree and a three-time league champion with the Patriots, McEwen had established herself as one of the state's top hitters. She batted .521 her senior year and finished with a career .463 batting average, while tallying 50 or more hits in each of her final two seasons.

After an early commitment to home-town San Diego State, she re-opened her recruiting and Arkansas swooped in. She actually played club softball with fellow Razorback Autumn Storms, who is also from the San Diego area, before both young ladies made their way to Fayetteville.

Now, with a love for the people of Arkansas and the Razorbacks softball program, McEwen knows she made the right decision.

"One, the people are super nice here. It's nothing like California," she said with a chuckle. "Then, just the facilities and the way they treat their athletes is just incredible. It's like having another family. They make it feel like home."

Sports on 05/03/2019

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