Why Danielle Gibson's home run cycle was even wilder than you thought
On Feb. 23, Arkansas sophomore Danielle Gibson became the second Division I softball player to hit for the home run cycle -- a solo home run, two-run home run, three-run home run and grand slam -- and the first to do it in four innings. Everything had to go perfectly that day against SIU-Edwardsville to make the feat with astronomical odds possible for the lefty transfer from Arizona State. In her final at-bat in the 15-3 victory, it almost didn't. This is the story from those who saw how it all went down.
Danielle Gibson, Arkansas first baseman: It was our second game of the day. We lost to Drake right before. I was struggling at the plate before that, and went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. I wasn't feeling like myself that day, but I had this feeling in the back of my mind that I needed to keep swinging and it would come.
Courtney Deifel, Arkansas coach: The coolest thing about Gibby is that she always wants that moment. Every time she steps in the box, she has the ability to change the game.
Gibson: I realized something crazy was going on after my grand slam -- my third at-bat. (Note: Gibson hit a two-run homer in the first inning and a three-run homer that cleared the fence by inches in the third inning.) Some of the girls came up to talk to me after I hit it, saying I'm just a [solo] home run shy of hitting the cycle. I never thought of that before. I was feeling on top of the world. I said, "Coach, I'm good. You can just end it right now. I've had a great day."
Deifel: Before her last at-bat, the girl in front of her, Aly Manzo, hit a well-placed ball that ended up being a one-out triple. My assistant, Matt, was saying to me, "Come on! Send her!" And I said, "Matt, she's going to be hosed. Come on!"
Matt Meuchel, Arkansas assistant coach: We had a sizable lead and [Coach Deifel] typically stands at the back of the third-base coach's box near where I'm standing. I was mentally keeping track of the home runs and knew that if Gibson came up again with no one on base that it could happen for her. Aly Manzo hit a ball down the line that was misplayed a little bit but not so badly that it was an inside-the-park home run. I was just hoping that something would happen so we'd have a chance at it.
Aly Manzo, Arkansas pinch hitter: I was standing on third, and I was like, "Ah, man, she can't hit a solo home run if I'm on third. I guess I kind of ruined it with my triple." And literally the first pitch of her at-bat was a wild pitch, so I scored on it. How crazy is that?
Gibson: It's crazy how the stars aligned. I just stood there in awe and thought that no matter what, I'm going to go for it.
Deifel: It wasn't until the bases were clear that I realized that she had the opportunity to hit for it. The game was only going to be five innings. She made sure of that. Until Aly scores on that wild pitch, we didn't think it would actually happen.
Meuchel: You're just trying not to jinx it.
Gibson: I had a 3-1 count, so I knew that they probably weren't going to give me anything on the plate that was near a strike. I toed up on the line, knowing they weren't going to pitch me inside because I'd just hit three balls pretty hard from an inside pitch. I told myself, "You're going to swing at this ball no matter what." It happened to be reachable, and I went opposite field with it.
Manzo: As soon as it was off her bat, we knew.
Deifel: The pitch was almost in the right-hand batter's box. She was just seeing it so well. I think that's the crazy thing. You look at the cycle and it was off two different pitchers and four different pitches. She was just on a mission and looking to do damage with every swing.
Meuchel: Our athletic trainer was literally climbing on the dugout netting as the ball was in flight in disbelief that it was actually happening.
Gibson: It didn't hit me for a couple of days after that. I came to the University of Arkansas with hopes of making relationships with my coaches and teammates. And I almost feel rewarded by this. I feel so grateful. It was just an indescribable feeling.