Texas State’s softball team will start the season on Friday with high expectations, both for themselves and from around the conference.
Last month, the Texas State softball team was selected by the WAC coaches to win the conference in their first and only season in the league. The ball club received five of the eight first place votes and the 43 points the team earned beat out San Jose State University by one, placing the Spartans second.
“The good thing for us is that this isn’t a spot we haven’t been in,” said Coach Ricci Woodard. “We go into the season expecting to be in that spot. It’s not like there is more pressure on us than there has been as it’s just a different conference. We hope to come out the same way we have the last few years. We all understand that poll doesn’t mean anything in February. It only means something in May.”
Woodard, who is entering her 13th season as the Bobcats’ head coach, was announced as the preseason WAC Coach of the Year. Senior second baseman Anna Hernandez and pitcher Anne Marie Taylor were named to the preseason softball All-WAC Team.
“I think those expectations are well deserved because we know we work hard,” Taylor said. “We’re going into this season to win, and we’re not going to let down for anyone. I don’t think the expectations are too high, and I think we deserve it.”
Last season, the team finished first in the Southland Conference and earned a bid in the NCAA tournament by winning that contest. Texas State was selected to participate in the College Station regional but was unable to advance into the super-regional.
“I expect to win the WAC this year,” said senior outfielder Brooke Baker. “I expect us to go further than what we have done in the past and believe we’ll get past regionals and get to super-regionals. We believe we have a real strong team this year and that we will do well.”
The team lost pitcher, utility player, and last year’s Southland Conference tournament MVP Chandler Hall to graduation for this upcoming season. Hall as a hitter posted a .277 batting average, accounted for 26 RBIs and contributed 41 hits for the team. However, her value is lost more on the mound. Hall led the Bobcats starting 28 games as a pitcher and posted a 22-8 record with a 1.73 ERA. The Bobcats will look to Taylor to fill that void this season. The left-handed pitcher posted a 17-8 record last season, starting in 28 games, and led the team with a 1.71 ERA. In the fall, Taylor had a strong showing against the National Pro Fastpitch All-Stars, pitching all 13 innings, striking out four and giving up three hits and a run in a 1-0 defeat.
“Obviously, losing Chandler Hall is a big loss,” Woodard said. “I think Anne Marie has been overshadowed by Chandler Hall to some degree. Chandler had 20-plus wins last year and Anne Marie Taylor had 17. It’s not like they were doing anything different.”
Woodard said Anne Marie has worked “behind the scenes” in the past.
“We are going to see her out in front of the scenes a little bit more,” she said. “She’s in a great spot and feeling confident. That 13 innings against the NPF All-Stars only helped build her confidence. She is in a good spot to carry us this spring.”
A positive for Texas State is that they return all eight starting fielders and six seniors will lead the team this year. Senior first baseman Haley Lemons believes the seniors on the team must lead by example to be effective this spring.
“It is important for us seniors to show leadership by actually doing the work and hard jobs,” Lemons said. “We need to show leadership by being servants to players on our team and respecting one another.”
Lemons said it is important for seniors to set that example.
“You can’t ask anybody to work hard, and you can’t ask for anyone to do things for you if you are not going to do things for them and for the team,” she said. “We view those things for the team as very important for us finding success this season.”
Since Woodard took over the team in 2001, the Bobcats have posted a .752 win percentage and have never finished below third in conference play.
“I expect this team to be very good,” Woodard said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they did some great things this year.”