By David Cohn
Junior Kayla Bonstrom is very modest when talking about her 2015 season, a junior campaign that currently ranks among the very best in program history.
In an immensely challenging season for the Stanford softball program, Bonstrom has been the program’s brightest star, leading her squad in just about every offensive category, including batting average (.469), hits (53), doubles (14), home runs (10) and on-base percentage (.564).
In turn, Bonstrom’s spectacular season has her on the short list for Pac-12 Player of the Year, as she is currently second in the Pac-12 Conference in batting average, second in slugging percentage (.876), tied for the best mark in on-base percentage and third in doubles.
She’s already one of only three winners in program history of the Pac-12 Newcomer of the Year award along with Ashley Hansen ’12 and Jessica Mendoza ’02, and with the tremendous season she has had this year, she’s also in line to join them as the only players in program history to win Pac-12 Player of the Year in addition to Newcomer of the Year as well.
“I’m very humbled and very honored to be in the same category as these two great players,” Bonstrom said. “Jessica Mendoza had a phenomenal collegiate and professional career. Ashley Hansen had a phenomenal career here at Stanford, so to even be mentioned with those two names is very humbling.”
When asked to explain the source of her standout season this 2015 year, Bonstrom pointed to the lessons learned from her sophomore year, particularly the mental toughness that she was able to develop during a season during which she was personally disappointed with her performance.
Bonstrom still managed to hit .333 with a team-leading 44 RBIs while earning Pac-12 Honorable Mention honors in her “down” year. Nevertheless, she spoke of her growth during her entire career, particularly during last year’s trying 29-23 campaign that saw the Stanford softball team miss the postseason for the first time since 1997.
“Personally, [sophomore year] was a very tough season for me mentally, just because I was learning the mental side of the game and trying to get a better grasp of that,” she said. “I think this season has been me putting most of the pieces together. I think I have a lot more that I can improve upon, but I think my past years have really allowed me to do well both physically and mentally this year, and this has been one of the first seasons where all of these pieces have started coming together.”
In particular, part of the mental challenge of Bonstrom’s sophomore season was when she was forced to pitch in the circle as a position player, after Stanford lost ace Kelsey Stevens to a transfer and Carley Hoover to a pectoral injury, with Nyree White also leaving the team for personal reasons.
The loss of three out of the four pitchers from the Cardinal’s rotation caused Bonstrom, along with Erin Ashby, Tylyn Wells and Kylie Sorenson, to have to pitch for the team; in five appearances and two starts, Bonstrom gave up 11 earned runs and 11 walks in eight innings of work.
“One, I hadn’t really pitched that much, and two, the competition we’re facing is so good,” she said. “I couldn’t always expect to get someone out, or I couldn’t always expect to blow the ball by someone, because in reality, that’s not the case… So the mental toughness on the side of pitching was something that was [in line] with the theme of sophomore year, of being more mentally tough and mentally stable.”
Regardless of the numerous changes this season, such as a new set of coaches and various injuries, which would set back any softball team, Bonstrom has continued to stay focused. Outside of games and practices, she puts in a lot of work on her own, which has certainly helped her go a long way in the game.
Bonstrom is a perfectionist, and she constantly pushes herself to get better. The team has voiced the unanimous opinion that she is the best player to come up to bat when the bases are loaded and the team needs to score. As an integral part of the lineup, her teammates rely on her because they know that she can get results.
Contact David Cohn at dmcohn ‘at’ stanford.edu.