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The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Texas State softball in high gear for upcoming season


Texas State softball team celebrates after retiring the inning during the home opener against the University of Oregon, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, at Bobcat Softball Stadium. The Bobcats lost 3-7.

The 2023 softball season is set to get underway as the Bobcats gear up for their season opener against Wichita State University on Friday, Feb. 10, at Bobcat Softball Stadium.
The Bobcats finished last season with a conference record of 19-8 and 38-19 overall, but the team was ultimately defeated by the University of Louisiana in the championship round of the Sun Belt Conference tournament after putting together 17 consecutive wins to finish the season.
Since then, Texas State has returned a total of 12 players from last season and features nine additional freshmen to round out its spring roster.
The Bobcats are looking to exceed expectations this year after the Sun Belt Conference preseason coaches poll ranked Texas State in second place behind the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns who earned all 12 first-place votes for a unanimous first-place selection in the poll.
Head coach Ricci Woodard said that it’s not about where the team starts, but more about where it finishes. 
“We don’t really care where we start right now, you know, that end poll is the only one that matters,” Woodard said.
Junior pitcher Jessica Mullins is coming off an outstanding 2022 campaign in which she was awarded Sun Belt Pitcher of the Year and First Team All-Sun Belt and finished with a 27-13 record and 17-4 in games played against conference opponents. She was voted the 2023 Preseason Pitcher of the Year to go along with her second-straight All-Sun Belt preseason selection.
Along with Mullins, senior infielder Sara Vanderford and sophomore outfielder Ciara Trahan were also tabbed as preseason All-Sun Belt Conference players this year, adding more fuel to the fire as the Bobcats head into the season.
“As the conference is growing, still getting recognized is an honor,” Vanderford said. “It’s something to be proud of but also just being out here and putting in the work and making sure I’m doing the right things is important too because it’s not just given. You have to work for it.”
Vanderford was the only Texas State softball player to appear and start in all 57 games throughout the 2022 campaign and enters the season with a .336 career batting average, good for second-best in program history.
Following Trahan’s selection for the preseason nod, she said the recognition and accolades that come along with it give her all the motivation to keep getting better.
“It feels really good because I worked really hard last year to get the stuff that I did,” Trahan said. “But it just makes me want to work harder this year to continue to show everybody the player that I am.”
Trahan’s preseason selection comes after earning the Sun Belt Freshman of the Year honors last season. She is excited to prove that she can help push the Bobcats even further this year.
After all the work that has been in during the off-season, Woodard is excited to see how the team will perform now against a different opponent.
“It’s a fun group to work with but I’m anxious to see how they’re going to handle a different opponent and the everyday players of our game,” Woodard said. “If we can push through those players I think we’re going to be a really good team.”
Woodard made it clear that the main focus this season is winning ball games, and leaving out distractions like the coaches poll and where the team ranks before the season.
“I think we improved a ton last spring even where we started to where we finished, I mean we were in the championship game of the conference tournament and went on a 17-win streak there at the end,” Woodard said. “But yeah, I feel like we’ve got a lot of great pieces to the puzzle this year and that puts us in a better spot to start the season.”
Vanderford expressed the same outlook when it came to the coaches poll and said it’s better for her to limit any unwanted pressure.
“Obviously it will light a fire and of course, we always want to beat the good teams but I think we’re going to have to stick to our game plan if we want to continue to be successful,” Vanderford said.
Trahan would rather use the second-place selection in the coaches poll as motivation to try and prove everybody wrong.
“I’m excited to prove that we are number one because we’ve been working really hard this fall and spring to show everyone the team that we actually are,” Trahan said. “There’s always ways you can improve in every aspect of the game, but I think from last year to this year we have gotten so much better one hundred percent.”
Woodard said leadership is going to be important this season since the team has a large number of incoming freshmen to play with a group of experienced players.
“I think there’s a ton of mentorship going on. I think that the freshmen have the benefit of having this upperclassmen class because they’ve done a really good job of trying to teach them a lot, and you can tell,” Woodard said. “But I also think that this freshmen group has done a really good job of buying in, and trying to learn exactly what we’re doing.” 
The Texas State softball team will play its first game of the 2023 season versus the Wichita State Shockers at 5 p.m. on Feb. 10 at Bobcat Softball Stadium. The game will be streamed on ESPN+.

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  • Texas State junior pitcher Jessica Mullins (4) winds up to pitch the ball during the home opener against the University of Oregon, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, at Bobcat Softball Stadium. 

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