A year ago, Maddie Gorman occupied the No. 2 spot in Mounds View’s softball lineup, often advancing runners with her bunts.
Hitting No. 3 this spring, Gorman’s job is getting those runners home with powerful swings. She is excelling, batting .339 with five home runs and 28 RBI, the latter number ranking her among the metro area’s most productive batters with runners in scoring position.
Gorman led her Mustangs, the No. 5 seed in the Class 3A, Section 5 playoffs, against No. 12 seed Totino-Grace in a single-elimination game played Monday night. But the Mustangs fell to the Eagles 9-8 to end their season. No. 4 Coon Rapids awaited the victors Tuesday.
The loss didn’t diminish an outstanding season. Gorman, a center fielder, made a May 13 doubleheader against Roseville the centerpiece of her year. She went 6-for-8 with three home runs over the fence, two doubles, a single, six runs scored and 11 RBI.
“She hit some bombs like I haven’t seen since [former Mustang] Kristin Danielson,” said Mounds View coach Frank Roth, referring to the 2006 Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year who led the metro with 10 home runs.
Roth called it “the best offensive explosion by a player that I have ever witnessed” in 13 years of coaching.
That day, Gorman seemed destined to be successful. She came home from school to get dressed for the game and “My mom kept saying, ‘I have a feeling it’s going to be a really great day at the plate today,’ ” Gorman said. “I didn’t take it too seriously but I got to the field and Coach Roth kept saying, ‘It’s a Maddie Gorman day.’ ”
A stiff wind blowing out to right- center made Roth giddy, knowing Gorman’s penchant for opposite-field power.
A year ago, Gorman’s played a less glamorous yet successful role squaring to bunt instead of swinging away. She registered seven of Mounds View’s 15 sacrifice bunts. Toward the season’s end she showed glimpses of her power hitting prowess.
She sharpened her skills at the Complete Game baseball and softball training center in Lino Lakes during the winter and joined teammates for successful dome ball outings.
Change also came from within. Gorman, whose older sisters Emily and Anna were captains for past Mustangs’ teams under Roth, wanted to take her place as a leader.
“I think it’s just being a senior and a captain and being a little more confident,” Gorman said. “My coach believes in me because he bats me third, and I believe in myself.”
Technical adjustments such as a quicker, more compact swing helped Gorman evolve into a more potent slugger.
“I worked on not dropping my hands, not taking a huge wind-up and instead just going straight to the ball,” Gorman said.
Becoming one of the metro area’s leaders in RBI owes to teammates getting on base as well as her ability to thrive in tough situations.
“I like hitting under pressure, whether it’s knowing I need to get a run in or making something happen with two strikes,” Gorman said.
Staying confident and relaxed worked for Gorman and the Mustangs. After stumbling to a 3-8 start, they rallied to win four consecutive games and created enthusiasm for a postseason push.
“We had a fun practice one day where we went in saying, ‘We’re all good players; we can hit and field so let’s just go have fun,’ ” Gorman said. “We stopped talking as much about what we needed to do and we went out and had fun.”