Madison Hunsaker

As a freshman, Madison Hunsaker hits a foul ball. Now a sophomore, she’s hitting .359 and has 33 hits so far this season.

They call her ‘The Rocket.’

That is the nickname given to Missouri State sophomore softball standout Madison Hunsaker.

She earned that nickname for good reason.

“I think it is because of the way she hits,” head coach Holly Hesse said. “She hits some rockets and provides a lot of power in our lineup.”

Hunsaker is in the middle of a breakout season for the Bears’ softball team, hitting .359 while leading the club with eight doubles and ranking second on the team with 33 total hits.

The first baseman said her success this season at the plate boils down to staying true to how she hits, getting back to who she was in high school.

“I’m just staying true to myself,” Hunsaker said.

Hunsaker attended high school in Belton, Missouri, part of the Kansas City metropolitan area.

At Belton, Hunsaker played basketball for four years, but it was softball that she quickly realized was her best sport.

“(Softball) was fun,” Hunsaker said. “It has been in my family for awhile. My dad played baseball and my brother does now. It just runs in the family.”

Hunsaker helped lead Belton to back-to-back district titles in 2014 and 2015, going 26-5 in the circle and driving in 90 runs in that span.

As a senior, the Missouri first-team all-state pick went an impressive 20-3 in the circle and batted .580 at the plate.

Hunsaker also helped Belton achieve three Greater KC Suburban Conference titles over her high school career as well.

That brought a lot pride to the school, Hunsaker said.

“We have been pretty good at softball, so it was good to carry out traditions,” Hunsaker said. “Being a senior and one of the only ones that played a lot, it meant a lot more my senior year than anything. It just brought a lot of pride to our school. It was fun.”

Hunsaker’s high school coach at Belton, Jeff Hulse, said she was an impact player for the program for all four years.

“Madison is one of the best players I have ever coached,” Hulse said. “She is a complete player at the highest skill level. She was one of the best hitters I have ever coached and seen at the high school level. She was the difference maker for the team.”

“She was nothing short of amazing for us. She is a great leader on the field and her positive spirit is a contagious asset to have on your program and team.”

Enter Missouri State.

Hunsaker’s high school exploits caught the attention of the university’s softball program.

Hesse said the Bears liked that Hunsaker was extremely versatile and the fact that she had an already well-rounded game.

“She plays a great first base,” Hesse said. “She has a great change-up which is really useful on the mound and she can hit the ball like crazy. She is a triple-threat in pitching, defense and offense for us.”

Hunsaker officially signed her National Letter of Intent with Missouri State on Nov. 9, 2016.

She chose Missouri State because she immediately felt at home in Springfield and it is only two hours from her hometown.

“My parents are able to make it to all the games,” Hunsaker said. “The girls I met throughout (the recruiting process) and I felt all the coaches were a good fit for me.”

Sports run in the Hunsaker family.

Madison’s dad James played college baseball at Central Missouri. Her mom Elizabeth played college volleyball at Graceland University.

Hunsaker said her parents having an athletic background has made a tremendous impact on her as a college athlete as well.

“My parents both are a big part of why I’m here,” Hunsaker said. “My dad works a lot on the physical aspect. My mom has worked on the mental part. I think both have made a big impact.”

Hulse said having parents who played college sports has many advantages and sets a tone for her as a player.

“They know what she needs to experience to become the player that she has become,” Hulse said. “They can help influence in a big way her opportunity for development as a young girl and young athlete. They are well-aware of the main ingredient of having fun and growing a passion for the game as well as the work ethic — what it takes to get there.”

With that, Hunsaker has been able to lean on her parents for advice whenever she seeks it out.

“(They tell me) to take the opportunities in front of you and always learn from the small victories,” Hunsaker said. “Cherish your teammates and the memories you make here. It will last you a lifetime and the friendships will last you a lifetime.”

After hitting only .250 as a freshman last year, Hunsaker’s offensive numbers have jumped this season as a sophomore.

She said she learned a lot about herself on the offensive side in 2018.

Hunsaker’s mindset coming into this year was simple.

“Mainly, I needed to gain more confidence at the plate from my freshman year to my sophomore year,” Hunsaker said. “I knew I would need to help my team out more offensively with graduating so many players that had an impact. My goal was to just help my team out more and let them rely on me more than I did freshman year.”

Hesse said a big difference in Hunsaker has been the amount of playing time she has received as a sophomore because she is now an everyday player.

“That always helps when you get more experience,” Hesse said.

Hunsaker said her main goal going forward is to help the team in anyway she can in all facets of the game.

“Whatever position I am in at the plate whether it is to score runs, move runners and help out there or whether it is to come into pitch or make plays at first base and pick up my teammates,” Hunsaker said. “That is the goal.”

As someone who was a big part of her development in high school, Hulse said he is proud of what Hunsaker is experiencing and accomplishing as a player at Missouri State.

“As a coach to look at her success, it makes me proud to have coached her,” Hulse said. “She made a difference in my life as well as many others. She definitely still has her best years ahead of her. It makes me beam to think of her having fun playing the game she loves.”

Derek Shore is a Sports Reporter at The Standard. He is a junior majoring in journalism with a minor in communications. He started writing about sports for The Standard during the fall semester of 2018.