YUMA, Ariz. — Zoe Bisby was the last to compete in the third and final round of the NJCAA Home Run Derby.
She needed 14 home runs in 90 seconds to win. A feat she has repeated in practice leading up to the event.
Bisby started hot with eight home runs in the first 30 seconds. She hit her 13th with 30 seconds remaining to match the leader.
After a series of swings came up short of the fence, Bisby cranked one more over the fence with seconds left to win. She finished with 44 total home runs after leading each of the first two rounds with 15 home runs in two minutes.
After the intense evening, Bisby said she was feeling fine and could keep going.
“A little shaky still. I can’t believe I actually did it,” Bisby said. “I knew I had to beat at least 12 every round. So I had to hit that mark at least, and then if I exceeded, I went over.”
The first round went in alphabetical order by district. So Bisby, representing District J, was in the middle of the pack and set the bar with 15 in two minutes.
“I realized that I could do it. I had a little confidence in myself and figured I could take it all the way,” she said about the first round.
Then she led the field with another 15 in two minutes in the second round.
Added assistant coach Jason Gwin, who pitched to Bisby in the derby, “She did her thing, and I’m proud of her. That’s why she came back, for this opportunity to be here. To see her do what she did is priceless.
“She doesn’t get tired. She was probably just getting warmed up ... When they dropped it to 1:30 (for the final round), we thought that was going to be a disadvantage for us because we knew we’d wear the other girls down.”
Bisby won the derby using teammate Lauren Joyner’s broken bat.
“She said, ‘I use it in practice; I hit well with it.’ So I said I’ll use it here,” Bisby said.
As for the trophy, Bisby said she might give it to head coach Jeff Null to put in his office.
With 10 home runs on the season, Bisby is fifth on the team and has half as many as team-leader Joyner, who is one away from matching Allison Pingel’s single-season record of 21 home runs.
Among Raiders with at least 20 at-bats, Bisby’s .632 slugging percentage is seventh.
In a team vote, the Raiders selected the third-year sophomore and clean-up hitter to represent Three Rivers.
“She puts in the work every day. She’s the one on the team that at any moment, I would guess that she’s in the weight room,” Null said. “Bisby is a kid who is built for this. Some kids rely on the pitcher’s speed a little bit more. Bisby has raw power. Whenever the pitchers are up here, and they’re underhanding it and not very fast, that raw power comes into play.”
Soon after the vote, Bisby and Gwin started training. Bisby said his pitches during the derby were perfect.
“I’m good at giving up the home run ball. I give it up every day at practice,” Gwin said. “She could have gotten 20. We did it in practice, and that’s what she did. She averaged about 20 in 2 minutes. We knew she’d get about 15-20. When they dropped it down, we knew 15 is about where she needed to be to win this.”
Bisby’s overall numbers were damaged by a slump in the middle part of the season. She hit four home runs in the Raiders’ first seven games, but then she went more than a month without another home run.
Bisby, who leads the team with 12 doubles and is third with 45 RBIs, broke her 19-game home run drought with a huge two-run home run with two outs in the first inning against then 16-ranked Crowder. Jaime Lee added an unearned run in the third inning, and the Raiders won 3-2 to sweep the day.
The next day, the Raiders went from unranked to No. 15 while Crowder dropped down to No. 19.
“She’ll tell you that she’s probably a little disappointed with how the middle of the season was going for us,” Null said. “She was struggling a little bit, but she started finding her swing toward the end of the year. She came up big to get us here.”
Later that week, Bisby popped two against Jefferson for her first multi-home run game of the season and finished 2 for 2 with two runs and three RBIs as the Raiders won 11-6.
In the District J Championship opener against Indian Hills (Iowa), The Raiders led 2-0 entering the bottom of the third inning.
With Null asking for some insurance runs, Bisby drilled a three-run homer off the scoreboard.
She was 3 for 6 with a run and six RBIs in two district championship games.
“She’s a veteran. She’s been around for a few years. This stage, it can swallow some people up. They get nervous and don’t perform at their best. She stepped up, obviously,” Null said. “She’s swinging a hot bat, and we knew (coach Gwin) is good at serving up home runs, as the girls can attest, and she took advantage of it tonight on a big stage.”
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic