Photo By Nolan P. Schmidt
You can hear that chant from the dugout time and time again when junior outfielder Madyson Camacho is at the plate for North Dakota State. Her no-brainer nickname of “Macho” has suited her well in her time in Fargo, but some may classify the Homeland, California, native as anything but “Macho”. Her 5-foot-4 stature is the smallest on the roster. However, if you judge Madyson Camacho solely based on size alone, you are gravely mistaken and several opponents have paid the price this season.
Heading into the Summit League Tournament on Thursday, Camacho can be found on many of the conference’s leaderboards. Her .336 batting average is not only second on the Bison roster but seventh in the Summit League. While Camacho’s stellar average is also coupled with an impressive .385 on-base percentage, that has not always been the case. In her freshman and sophomore campaigns, Camacho did not hit over a .270 average either season. Her .336 mark this year is 68 points higher than her .268 average last season. Add to that, eight multi-hit games including a four-hit performance against Omaha on April 27. That was a new career high for Camacho.
“I have done better in my mechanics and I’ve just been more confident being an upperclassman,” said Camacho on her adjustments at the plate. “Just doing my job on the bases.”
Head coach Darren Mueller has also seen a shift in Camacho’s hitting game over the course of this season. Like Camacho, Mueller believes confidence has played a key role in her success this year.
“I think it’s her approach. I don’t think she is trying as hard, that’s the best way to put it. She’s staying relaxed and having fun when Maddy has fun, she’s a lot of fun to be around and she has a lot of energy,” Mueller said when asked about what he has seen from the junior this season. “As a freshman, she would tend to beat herself up if she made a mistake and she did a little bit of that last year. This year, there are little bits here and there where she would do that, but I think now she’s going out there and the confidence that comes with that has really paid off.”
That is not to say Camacho has not been valuable for Mueller and the Bison in her first two seasons. She continues to be one of the most vital defensive pieces in the NDSU diamond machine. The California product offers up an eye-popping .957 fielding percentage this season. In her sophomore season, Camacho was perfect in the outfield, garnering a 1.000 fielding percentage. North Dakota State has had one of their best defensive seasons in the Division I era this year. Their .975 fielding percentage as a team is second best in the Summit League era, second to the 2009 team that made an NCAA Super Regional.
“We feed off of each other. When someone makes a good play, we want to make a good play too,” said Camacho of the Bison defense. “The positive energy we give to our defense, hyping up our defense has been the difference in our years here.”
While Camacho is being humble in the above statement, she has made her fair share of good plays in the outfield throughout her career.
Game 3 of the Omaha series included a clutch Madyson Camacho snag in left field. #Macho was also a force on the offensive side, hitting 4/4 with 2 runs and 3 RBI. #AttackMode pic.twitter.com/ZbTqCLjdqv
— NDSU Softball (@NDSUsoftball) April 30, 2019
Perhaps the most impressive facet of Camacho’s game is her baserunning ability. Couple that with her tremendous speed and you have a lethal player in Camacho on the basepaths. She has stolen 12 bases this season on 14 attempts which is second on the roster to Katie Shoultz and tied for third in the Summit League.
For Camacho, baserunning is almost solely based on instinct. In the team’s most recent series against North Dakota, Camacho attempted to leg out a double on a routine base hit. What may have seemed foolish to some was proven to be a genius move as Camacho’s baserunning instinct drove in Katie Shoultz, who was at second base when the ball was hit. Sacrificing an out for a run like that is okay with Darren Mueller.
“It’s great. She has baserunning technique and instincts that we can’t even teach, it’s really nice to have that. Her and Katie [Shoultz], when they both get on the bases, I feel like just their instinct alone is going to get us a run,” he said. “With Maddy, it’s tough because you try to find that when you’re recruiting and try to find athletes that have that instinct and she had that right away. It’s really nice to have.”
The junior is also quick to admit that baserunning has always been one of her strong points on the diamond. “That’s more instinctive to me. I feel like I’ve always been a good baserunner and I’ve improved my baserunning skills immensely here at NDSU,” she said. “My teammates are annoyed of me when I’m on the bases when we practice defense and offense, but I just like baserunning a lot so it’s natural to me.”
Camacho seemed to relish annoying her own teammates on the bases, as she laughed after saying the above utterance.
With a league-leading record and number one seed in the conference tournament, North Dakota State is the overarching favorite to take the Summit League crown yet again. Coming into their opening game on Thursday off a loss to North Dakota on Sunday, Camacho says the team needs to bring more energy. “We just need to bring out better energy. The game on Sunday, we just came in with low energy and I feel like we need to bring it up to where it has been,” she said. “We just need to have fun with it.”
The Bison will open the Summit League Tournament with either North Dakota or South Dakota State at noon on Thursday. Both rivals have beaten NDSU once this season. However, with versatile players like Madyson Camacho, a stingy pitching staff and hitters that can get hot at any moment, it will take a lot for any opponent to unseat the Bison this weekend.