Texas State softball opens the 2012 season Friday in Tempe, Arizona for the Kajikawa Classic and will face a slate of top-tier opponents, including last year’s national champions.
The Bobcats are set to play six teams throughout the three-day invitational and on Saturday will face No. 1-ranked defending champion Arizona State. Texas State will additionally play Syracuse, Brigham Young, California, Washington and New Mexico.
Head Coach Ricci Woodard has emphasized the importance of early season games and said the team is aware of the implications.
“They understand,” she said. “Every year we kind of sit down and talk about how February is where we live or die. If we don’t win enough games in February then we have to win a conference tournament.”
The Bobcats still have some unclear roles, however, after losing five seniors from last year’s team. Three new freshmen will help fill those voids, but Woodard said she has not made a definitive decision on open positions.
“I think right now we’re going to play a bunch of different people in a bunch of different spots,” she said. “We’re just going to see what ends up being our best lineup while we go through February.”
Haley Lemons, first baseman, will be at her usual spot hitting third, as will Anna Hernandez, second baseman, who hit fifth most of last season. Woodard is moving Chandler Hall from second in the batting order to fourth and will likely mix and match in-between.
“It’s exciting,” Hall said. “We’re not really sure who is going to start because we’re all doing really well right now. Everyone wants to play and everyone is willing to work hard. I think we’re a lot closer as a team this year.”
Graduating five players not only left positions unfilled, but also leadership roles. Woodard said the focus of this team is different than in years past, and the junior class is starting to lead the team.
“They have their goals set on making sure they take care of all the little things that make them better and I think that’s going to help them in the long run,” she said. “Our junior class has done a good job of trying to keep everyone focused, and our senior class is hungry. Whether they can carry it through to May is the question.”
Hernandez, who is a junior, said she has tried to assume a bigger leadership role and noted how close-knit the team seems this year.
“I’m really working on keeping up the team attitude, keeping the team light,” she said. “I know I say that every year we have chemistry, but so far this has been the best yet.”