The Texas State softball team concluded its season in the first round of the Sun Belt Tournament in Louisiana.
The team finished 26-30, highlighted by a dismal 1-14 away record. However, the program’s outlook remains bright for the coming years.
After the Bobcats’ 18-38 output last year, Coach Ricci Woodard hoped for a major bounce-back this year.
The team started 7-3 and knocked off 23rd-ranked California. The team’s first significant loss was its 11-1 defeat to 12th-ranked Baylor on March 1. The loss marked the beginning of the Bobcats’ inconsistent play. The Bobcats didn’t perform well on the road, spiraling with a 7-11 finish in the final month of play. Texas State entered the Sun Belt tournament as the fifth seed.
Texas State’s upperclassmen did perform well throughout the year, but a lack of consistent hitting and a fatigued ace pitcher were their ultimate downfall. The team will lack leadership after the seniors graduate. Timishia North, senior utility player, led the team with 15 stolen bases, and Coralee Ramirez, senior outfielder, was second in batting average.
The most significant loss will be the team’s top pitcher, Rayn House, whose 2.50 earned run average was the fifth-best in the Sun Belt. House, Sun Belt leader in innings pitched, was undoubtedly fatigued near the end of the season. She allowed 73 hits in the final month of the season.
The top teams in the Sun Belt, South Alabama and champion Louisiana, each had two reliable pitchers they could start as opposed to Texas State’s one. The Bobcats had two underclassmen backing up House: sophomore Ashley Wright and freshman Kaylee Garner. Wright and Garner’s combined ERA, 7.53, was five runs worse than House. Experience was crucial, and Coach Woodard played House often to combat the others’ inexperience.
Regardless of the team’s final record, the season should be seen as a right step forward. It would have been unrealistic to expect a team with more than half a roster of underclassmen to instantly compete in a very good Sun Belt conference. This season gave Coach Woodard a great starting point to build around with the production of her younger players.
Kelli Baker, sophomore second baseman, led the team in batting average (.326), and Katie Doerre, sophomore catcher, had the fifth highest batting average (.292). Athletes like Baker, Doerre and Kendall Wiley, sophomore first baseman, will have more experience under their belts in addition to returning All-Conference Courtney Harris, junior third baseman, and Kortney Koroll, junior utility player.
Perhaps the biggest addition next year will be former University of Texas and USA Olympic pitcher Cat Osterman to the pitching staff to aid the development of Texas State’s two future pitchers.
Texas State should view this season not as a failure but as a stepping stone toward getting the softball program back on track and primed for a more prominent run in the Sun Belt conference.
Follow Ishmael Johnson on Twitter: @Ish_46