As clutch as it gets: Addison Barnard grand slam keeps Shocker softball postseason alive

With chants of “M-V-P!” reigning down at Wilkins Stadium, Addison Barnard proved why she is one of the all-time greats in college softball history.

The Wichita State senior slugger belted a go-ahead grand slam in the fifth inning, her fifth home run in the last 48 hours, to lift the Shockers to a dramatic, come-from-behind 11-9 win over Tulsa in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference tournament on Thursday.

Not only was it the 92nd bomb in the historic career of Barnard, moving her into a tie for fourth-most career home runs in Division I history, the grand slam kept WSU’s hopes of a fourth straight NCAA bid alive.

The Shockers (27-21) will face top-seeded Florida Atlantic, set to play its first game in Wichita this week, at 2:30 p.m. Friday at Wilkins Stadium. The winner advances to Saturday’s 11 a.m. championship game.

“I knew going into the at-bat that it was a big moment with the bases loaded and I knew I could do it,” Barnard said after perhaps the most memorable home run of her career. “I just really wanted to do it for my team because my team means everything to me. I wanted to put a good swing on a good pitch and that’s what I did and I’m so happy for this team. We are too good to be done this early.”

Barnard is in the midst of the best hitting tear of her career after a 4-for-4 performance in a 13-0 win over UTSA on Wednesday, which included three home runs, followed by two more home runs on Thursday to up her season total to 23. She has 22 total bases with a 3.143 slugging percentage in the two postseason games.

When Barnard stepped to the plate with WSU trailing 8-7 and the bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning, it felt inevitable something good for the Shockers was about to happen.

“You could just feel it, in the dugout, in the stands, it was palpable,” WSU hitting coach Elizabeth Economon said. “You think, ‘Man, they should probably walk her.’ One’s better than four. But nobody is doing it because they think there’s no way she can keep hitting it out and she does. It’s like watching a movie right now.”

WSU freshman Avery Barnard has watched just about every softball game her older sister has played. She’s not sure she’s ever seen her in this kind of a groove.

“She’ll get in these grooves where she’s just like unstoppable,” Avery Barnard said. “All I know is I’m glad I’m on her side because I would not want to be pitching to her right now.”

Economon, who has worked with Addison for the past four years, agreed.

“We’re not even talking mechanics or approach right now,” Economon said. “I just smile at her because she’s so locked in. The ball has to be looking huge to her.”

The fifth inning on Thursday proved to be a wild one, as Tulsa rallied for six runs in the top-half to open up an 8-4 lead and force the Shockers down to their final nine outs of the season.

WSU needed some help from Tulsa — its defense dropped two sure outs and made a throwing mistake — to plate two runs and build momentum. When C.C. Wong walked to load the bases, Barnard laced the third pitch she saw over the right-field wall to send a packed crowd into delirium.

“I’m so happy for Addie because she deserves this,” WSU sophomore Sami Hood said. “She’s such a great person. She’s so Godly and so humble. I just really admire her.”

“In my eyes, she’s the best softball player there is,” Avery Barnard said.