TEMPE – Entering the 2023 season, ASU softball first baseman Jordyn VanHook started in 10 total games through her first three seasons, but after an offseason that included time spent in the transfer portal and a transition to first base, VanHook has emerged as one of the top players in the Pac-12.
VanHook, a senior from Woodland Hills, California, has started in 36 games for the Sun Devils this season and has proven to be one of the top hitters on the team. For VanHook, the path to her success has been four years in the making.
“That was a goal for me to come back and have a successful year knowing that this could be my potential last year without the COVID year,” VanHook said. “I just worked really hard with my dad, hitting, working out with my personal trainer back at home and just doing all the stuff I needed to prepare for this season.”
VanHook’s first season with ASU came in 2020, when coach Trisha Ford was still the coach for the Sun Devils. As a freshman, VanHook saw very little playing time, playing in 14 out of 29 games due to a shortened season because of COVID-19.
VanHook saw a career high in games played in 2021, when she played in 22 games and started in nine, but struggled at the plate with a .171 batting average and 12 strikeouts in 35 at-bats. Despite seeing more playing time her sophomore year, she only played in 20 games due to a crowded outfield during her junior year, a season that ended in the NCAA Super Regionals for ASU.
After playing in a total of 56 games through her first three seasons and following Ford’s decision to take the coaching vacancy at Texas A&M in June 2022, VanHook entered the transfer portal prior to her senior season.
“I was close with coach Ford and that old coaching staff, and I didn’t really know what was going to happen with this program moving forward so I just took that step into the transfer portal for a little bit just to see what my options were,” VanHook said.
ASU named Megan Bartlett the new softball coach, and after conversations with VanHook and Bartlett’s decision to keep assistant coach Jimmy Kolaitis as part of her coaching staff, VanHook felt comfortable enough to stay at ASU despite the major changes.
A change in coaching staff wasn’t the only major transition VanHook saw over this past offseason. In order to find a way to break into the starting lineup and achieve the goal she had set for herself entering this season, VanHook decided to transition to first base, a position that needed to be filled after starting first baseman Cydney Sanders transferred to Oklahoma.
Throughout the offseason, VanHook taught herself the fundamentals of playing first base and while she noted that the transition was different, she knew it would pay off if it meant getting into the lineup every day.
Once the summer ended and training for the 2023 season began, it didn’t take long for Bartlett to notice VanHook and the talent she brought to a rebuilt ASU team.
“The first round of batting practice I ever saw the kid take … I watched her and I walked over to coach [Kolaitis] and I’m like, ‘So that kid’s never played, huh? What are we doing?’ cause I think after the first 15 pitches she saw, nine of them left the yard,” Bartlett said.
By the start of the season, VanHook was named the starting first baseman and by the second week of the season, she earned Pac-12 Player of the Week honors after helping ASU to a 4-1 record during the Littlewood Classic with hits in all five games, including four home runs and 10 RBIs.
Her success and dominant hitting didn’t come as a surprise for Bartlett and her teammates. Graduate outfielder and four-year teammate Yannira Acuña recognized the extended work VanHook put into her game to improve.
“I think that she has put in the work during fall ball and it just shows how much she has worked,” Acuña said. “It shows all the time that she has put into the game and I’m glad to see that she’s succeeding and doing well at first base and hitting all those home runs.”
Even though VanHook didn’t find herself in a true starting position until her senior year, her personality and leadership has positively impacted the team since she stepped on campus. Coach Bartlett recognized the impact VanHook has on the team early on and continues to rely on her word to help motivate the team.
“I think Jordyn’s opinions just carry so much value because she’s lived both sides of the coin,” Bartlett said. “That kid worked her tail off and she waited her turn and then when her ticket was called, she made good on everything but when she was on the bench, she was a great cheerleader, she was a pinch runner, she was graceful, she was a good teammate so it is one of those incredible success stories in college athletics.”
ASU has a 21-16 record and is set to host Grand Canyon University Tuesday before traveling to Los Angeles to play UCLA. The Sun Devils are currently ranked seventh in the conference with less than a month before the Pac-12 tournament at Hillenbrand Stadium in Tucson.
As the regular season wraps up, VanHook has the opportunity to add to her resumé as she’s tied for third in home runs in the country with 15 and continues to be one of the top hitters for the Sun Devils.