Kaiser Goes to the Moon as Hearn’s Stellar Performance Lifts Orange
By Tom Russo
CitrusTV Softball Beat Reporter
“Holy Crap! Dude, that was hit so far!”
That was what Coach Shannon Doepking said to the third base umpire as she watched AJ Kaiser’s home run sail into the parking lot, well beyond the left field wall.
“I was honestly stunned,” said Hannah Dossett on the moonshot. “I think that’s the furthest home run I’ve ever seen in person in a softball game, so that was awesome.”
“Oh my gosh, I was mesmerized,” said Miranda Hearn. “That ball was so far gone, that was crazy! She hit it over the bus! Over the Scoreboard!”
The moonshot came early on in what would become a 3-0 victory for Syracuse (21-28, 8-13 Atlantic Coast) over Cornell (10-33, 5-13 Ivy League). Kaiser’s shot would prove to be more than enough offense for a dominant Miranda Hearn.
After a pair of flyouts to open the bottom of the first from Gabby Teran and Alicia Hansen, Kaiser strode to the plate.
“I got two outside for my first two pitches, and the third one she kinda just left there so I was like OK! And I turned on it,” said Kaiser of the at bat.
The ball just kept carrying, over the left field wall, over the scoreboard behind it, and over the Cornell bus that was parked in the lot behind the scoreboard. But there was one person in the stadium who didn’t know that.
“[Kaiser] didn’t even know that she hit it over,” said Hearn. “She was just running, and we were like ‘Dude, stop sprinting! You can jog!’”
“It’s impressive that she can hit a ball that far,” said Doepking. “It’s even more impressive that she sprints out of the box and doesn’t know that that’s out of the park! Like it’s even more impressive that she doesn’t understand the concept that that was absolutely crushed.”
“Everyone was making fun of me,” said Kaiser. “They weren’t mad, but they were like ‘You were sprinting! Like you have to learn how to slow down and not look like you’re killing yourself on a home run.”
Kaiser explained the reasoning behind her running was that Teran and Hansen’s near misses made her think she didn’t get it all.
“I just felt like Gabby and Leash both squared up their balls, and theirs didn’t go out, so I was like mine didn’t,” said Kaiser. “I guess it was pretty far. I wasn’t aware of how far it was I guess.”
But underneath Kaiser’s moonshot was the stellar pitching of Hearn, who posted her finest outing of the season, going the full seven innings for the first time, holding the Big Red to only three hits and leaving a goose egg on the board while striking out a career-high eight batters.
“It was my backdoor curveball,” said Hearn. “It was the most effective.
Hearn has spent the majority of the campaign working to improve on the curve after a rough start.
“I’ve been working on spinning it and learning to break it in certain areas depending on where the batter is standing in the box,” said Hearn. “I think progressively over the season it’s gotten better and better and I’ve gotten a lot more consistent with it.”
The numbers bear out the improvement, as Hearn’s ERA has dropped consistently from its peak at 8.94 on March 13th, a game where she only recorded one out against Kentucky (32-19, 14-10 Southeastern) and gave up five runs.
Her ERA now sits at 4.39. Remove the five earned runs she yielded this past weekend at Georgia Tech (30-23, 11-10 Atlantic Coast), and Hearn has given only one earned run total over the other six of her past eight starts.
Hearn has also allowed more than three runs, earned or otherwise, in only two of the 14 appearances she has made since the Kentucky game.
“She was able to keep them off balance,” said Doepking. “I think she threw her soft stuff really, really well, and then I thought she threw her hard stuff really, really well.”
It was the addition of the fastballs that Doepking points to as the source of Hearn’s recent success.
“I think you got to see a little bit more variation in the two speeds from her today than you’ve seen,” said Doepking. “Normally it’s been slow, slow, slow, and today I though she threw the hard stuff really, really well. Her ability to keep them off-balance was really, really special today.”
Hearn’s teammates were equally impressed with her performance.
“She’s been really good for us lately, just doing her job and throwing people off with timing,” said Kaiser. “It always looks cool when she just makes people look foolish, we love seeing that, but she did really good today.”
“Even though we only had one run for most of the game, it made it a lot less stressful,” said Dossett of her pitcher’s performance. “We were trying to put up runs for her, but with her shutting it down every inning, I don’t think we were quite as stressed, and I think it made us a lot more comfortable, especially later in the game at the plate.”
Sure enough, it was Dossett who came to her pitcher’s aid in the bottom of the sixth, when she launched an RBI triple into the right center field gap. She would come in to score the game’s third run on a SAC fly by Lailoni Mayfield.
But Doepking couldn’t stop gushing about Hearn’s dominance.
“I’m super confident with her, and I’m super proud of her,” said Doepking. “She came out, really, really slow this year, and she struggled a lot and she had a lot of bad outings for us, and the strength to just be able to stick with this and grind it out and figure it out for this team shows a lot about what Miranda’s about and who she is as a person.”
According to coach though, the success was coming, it was only a matter of time.
“We’ve always known she’s had talent cause we’ve seen her do it at practice,” said Doepking. “We’ve seen her do it against our kids who know exactly what’s coming and she still makes them look dumb. It was just time before it all came together for her.”
However now the Orange will face their biggest test of the season, as they welcome the defending NCAA champions, No. 5 Florida State (45-8, 25-2 Atlantic Coast), to the Skytop Softball Stadium this weekend for a three-game set to close out the regular season. Game one is Friday at 4:00 p.m.