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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Softball seeks return to championship game for second consecutive year

Texas+State+sophomore+utility+Bailee+Welsh+%2818%29+pitches+to+a+Roadrunners+batter+during+a+scrimmage+against+UTSA%2C+Friday%2C+Oct.+7%2C+2022%2C+at+Bobcat+Softball+Stadium.

Texas State sophomore utility Bailee Welsh (18) pitches to a Roadrunners batter during a scrimmage against UTSA, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022, at Bobcat Softball Stadium.

After an up-and-down start in 2022, Texas State clinched an impressive 35-17 regular season record and entered the Sun Belt Conference tournament on a red-hot 15-game winning streak. The team won three out of four games to play its way into the championship game, where the Bobcats were defeated 7-1 by Louisiana Lafayette.
The loss to the Ragin’ Cajuns has fueled a four-month offseason for Texas State, but with fall practices now officially underway, the anticipated 2023 season is finally nearing. 
Senior infielder Sara Vanderford believes after exceeding its own expectations last season, this year’s team has set a new standard for itself for the upcoming season. 
“I think we have a really good group of people,” Vanderford said. “I think we have all the people in the right places, everyone shows up to practice every day and everyone’s bought in so I think we have a really high standard this year.” 
With key players from the 2022 team returning, like Vanderford, sophomore outfielder Ciara Trahan, senior pitcher Tori McCann, junior pitcher Jessica Mullins and the addition of University of Texas transfer junior infielder JJ Smith, the expectations heading into the 2023 season are high.
“We have larger expectations than we did last year,” Mullins said. “We want to make it as far as the Women’s College World Series and I think we all have that goal in mind whereas last year we were kind of iffy and we really didn’t have all the same expectations.” 
Last season, Texas State lost six seniors from the 2022 team that went on a deep postseason run all the way to regionals. However, 13 players are returning from the Sun Belt Conference championship runner-up roster which brings experience and chemistry to the 2023 team; something that the 2022 team lacked during its rocky start.
Even with 13 players returning, Mullins believes it will still take a bit of time for this team to fully come together.
“We still have a really young team; we have just as many newcomers as we do experienced players,” Mullins said. “Having as many returners, we’re able to set a better standard with the newcomers because they need the growth.”
Mullins led the Sun Belt last season in strikeouts, ERA, innings pitched and wins en route to the 2022 Sun Belt Pitcher of the Year. Despite her accomplishments thus far, Mullins remains humble and is taking a team-first approach going into 2023.
“Individually I felt like I had to set a goal last year and that goal was just to do the best of my ability for my team and in doing so I just ended up falling into the hands of Pitcher of the Year,” Mullins said. “Now I don’t want to set super high expectations because honestly I just want to play for the team and do the best I can for them.”
Even after an award-winning season, pitching coach Josh Trevino believes Mullins has plenty of room to grow. Trevino has already seen a significant amount of improvement from last year and said Mullins is working on layering more changes of speeds in her pitch mix in fall practice. 
“I think she’s developed a lot of pitch ability,” Trevino said. “She’s starting to execute better sequences and getting a lot more robust in her pitch calling and pitch effectivity.”
On Oct. 9, the Bobcats played in its second fall scrimmage against the University of Texas, a team who has had Texas State’s number in years past. That was not the case for the scrimmage, however, with the Bobcats emerging victorious with an 8-7 win in 10 innings. 
Trevino said the coaching staff had one message to the team heading into the Texas scrimmage: you have the talent, so just show up and be yourselves. 
“I think that was the most effective way we could prepare them,” Trevino said. “Whenever we were playing the burnt orange, a different feel takes over and it’s easy to succumb to that… it’s not David and Goliath, you show up and be yourself and let the rest take care of itself, and that’s exactly what happened.”
Even though it was just a fall scrimmage, the Bobcats believe the win against Texas is the type that can set the tone for the entire season to come. 
“Whenever it’s your second fall game and you come out and beat the number two team in the country in 2022, it sets the bar pretty high,” Vanderford said. “We have to keep working and that is the standard.”

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