JUNCTION CITY (KSNT) – All-Star weekend in Los Angeles won’t just be filled with the MLB’s biggest names.
“She’s going somewhere she’s never been,” Clint Harold, coach of the Chaos club softball team, said. “She’s doing the unsure.”
It will also feature the nation’s best home run hitters under the age of 16. One of them is Junction City’s Gracie Erichsen.
“I hit my first home run two years ago, and that was a crazy experience,” Erichsen said. “You just kind of sail from there.”
The road to All-Star weekend started close to home in Wamego.
“She had a tournament with her Chaos team the weekend that this home run derby was, and on the off-chance that we would make it home in time to do it, I went ahead and I said ‘Do you want to register?'” Gracie’s mom, Joanna, said. “She’s like, ‘I don’t care, sure.’ So it was kind of on a whim.”
She hit 12 home runs there to make it to regionals in Kansas City.
“Me and this girl from Oklahoma, she hit seven and I had seven,” Erichsen said. “We were tied and on the last pitch I hit eight.”
That punched her ticket to LA. It takes a lot of power to hit home runs. The most important part of Erichsen’s swing is her weight and stability in her back foot.
“So that I don’t move it because that was a tendency I had before,” she said. “So, I sit back and I drive with my hips and my hands, so that they go forward. Wherever the ball is, is where I place my hands to it, so that the barrel can follow. Then, wherever my eyes go, my hands go, and then the barrel comes out and reaches.”
Erichsen’s coaches know the extra experience will help her game.
“Everybody forgets Gracie was just a freshman this year, but she doesn’t play like a freshman,” Jeff Childs, Geary County softball coach and Junction City High School assistant coach, said. “But as a younger player, she’s still one of our leaders.”
“Just bring back energy,” Junction City High School softball coach Aaron Craig said. “You’ve gone out. You’ve competed. You’ve done something, and that’s what we need– that high-competitive level.”
For Erichsen, it’s still all about fun.
“[I’m] not putting too much pressure on myself,” she said. “I did it for fun at first and that’s what I’m still doing it for.”