May 12, 2004
By Dirk Facer
Deseret Morning News
Stahnke is the Utes' career leader with 49, while Donnelly (who has a team-high 18 this season) is currently tied for second in the nation in home runs per game.
Neither, however, claims power is their priority. Stahnke's approach involves staying relaxed, going with the flow, timing and seeing the ball. Trying too hard to hit homers, she claims, throws a hitter's mechanics out the window.
"The main thing is to not try to hit them at all. Use good technique, just the basics to make the ball go out. It's all about timing," said Donnelly. "I just focus on trying to get base hits. That's all I really try to do. I never try to hit home runs. But, obviously it's always a positive."
It alleviates pressure, added Stahnke, in comparison to being a baserunner.
"It's a release," she said. "When you hit a homer, there's the run. There's not more you can do, and that's just fun."
So, too, is taking that nice, easy jog around the bases.
"It's a great feeling," acknowledged Donnelly. "Generally on a home run you have to feel good. It has to be a great swing and you have to be relaxed."
It's a feeling the Utes (20-31, 8-12) hope to carry into this week's Mountain West Conference Tournament in Fort Collins, Colo. They'll face UNLV on Thursday.
"I really think we can put together some wins and take the conference championship. I truly believe that," said Stahnke, who is hopeful she and the other senior leaders on the team can keep things light and make it a fun experience for all.
Utah coach Mona Stevens has told her squad that any of the top four teams in the league are capable of winning the tournament.
"This team has more talent than any team I've been on here at Utah," said Stahnke. "We have so much talent. We just haven't really got into a groove."
While that may be true collectively, it doesn't apply to the individual contributions by players like Donnelly and Stahnke. They've helped this year's squad hit a school-record 61 homers.
Donnelly, an economics major and junior college transfer from Missouri, has a team-high .361 batting average and is one double shy of equaling the school record of 17 in a season. Her .775 slugging percentage, thus far, is the best in Utah history.
The latter eclipses Stahnke's record-setting mark of .761 in 2001.
None of that matters, Donnelly explained, if the Utes fail to succeed as a group.
"I'd rather see this team as a whole accomplish great things," she said. "I have so much faith, trust and love for my teammates that I just want them to succeed.
"If there's a podium for teams we'd be on that first-place stand with everybody," continued Donnelly, an accomplished soccer player who'll play for the Utes next fall before becoming a volunteer assistant softball coach. "It's a team sport, not an individual sport."
Stahnke agrees. She even applies the concept to her records, which include single-season marks of 22 homers, 67 RBI and 150 total bases in 2001. Stahnke said she felt a bit like Barry Bonds that year, but has since evolved into a more consistent hitter. The Ridgefield, Wash., product, who has a .327 batting average this season, is second in career RBI with 161 and fifth in doubles with 39.
"It's real fun when I look at the people that are on that list with me and the records they've set at Utah," said Stahnke, who plans to become an elementary school teacher. "It's amazing to be part of that group of people because they're awesome softball players. To consider myself in that group is a really big honor for me."