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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

Azua shines as Texas State wins doubleheader matchup on Opening Day

Meg Boles
Texas State freshman pitcher Madison Azua (22) prepares to pitch, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, at Bobcat Softball Stadium.

There isn’t a better way to start a softball season than by beating your most prominent rival, which is precisely what Texas State did to kick off the 2024 season.

Texas State softball (2-0) began the season with a doubleheader matchup on Thursday afternoon at Bobcat Softball Stadium. The Bobcats started the new season with a 2-1 victory over the University of Texas at San Antonio (0-2) in the softball rendition of the “Battle of I-35″.

The theme of the game was pitching, as Texas State freshman pitcher Madison Azua threw a complete game, punching out 12 Roadrunner batters and posting a 1.00 ERA in her first collegiate start on the mound. Azua gave up two hits early in the first inning but did not allow another hit for the remainder of the game.

“[My first game] was a little nerve-wracking,” Azua said. “But as the game went on, I got over it, and having my teammates behind my back really helped. Just knowing [that first inning] wasn’t the end of the world and talking to my teammates helped me a lot.”

Despite Azua’s strong debut performance, the Bobcat offense was sluggish at times. Sophomore utility Katarina Zarate homered to get Texas State on the board to tie the game at 1-1 in the second inning. The home run was Zarate’s first ever inside Bobcat Softball Stadium.

In the third inning, sophomore catcher Karmyn Bass doubled to bring graduate student infielder Sara Vanderford home to give Texas State a 2-1 lead, which would be enough to seal the victory.

The Bobcats offense, carried by a couple of huge swings, also left eight runners on base and only collected six total hits against the Roadrunners.

In the second game of Thursday’s doubleheader, Texas State faced Northwestern State University (1-1). Riding the momentum from the first win, the Bobcats shutout the Lady Demons 7-0.

Texas State’s lights-out pitching was backed by a jumpy offense led by Vanderford and senior infielder Hannah Earls.

After stealing second following an infield single, Earls was the first to cross home plate before Vanderford belted her first homer of the season over the train tracks behind left field for three more runs in the bottom of the first inning to give the Bobcats an early 4-0 lead.

“Hannah Earls has been lights out,” Texas State Head Coach Ricci Woodard said. “We’ve worked on her stealing more bases this year. Her magic number’s 40 we’re trying to get her to [it].”

Earls completed two steals on three attempts in the game. Compared to her first three seasons, where she racked up 63 total, she is on pace to drop 50 or more this season.

On the mound, graduate student pitcher Tori McCann got the start and wrung out two batters in four innings pitched with no hits allowed. Senior pitcher Karsen Pierce and junior pitcher Presley Glende followed to close out the no-hitter.

“If you’ve got a pitching staff that gives up two hits on a day, you’re probably going to win some ball games,” Woodard said. “To be able to get a no-hitter in this last game and be able to take a senior out where she’s throwing a no-hitter just shows what kind of character kids I have.”

Senior utility J.J. Smith got herself on the board for Texas State with a three-run homer to center field, increasing the Bobcat lead to 7-0 in the fifth inning.

A mixture of Bobcat hits and Demon errors told the story for Northwestern State. The Demons gave up an error in the first two innings. The Bobcats accumulated 10 total hits in this contest, along with the no-hitter performance.

“We said it before, just making sure we show up every day and play the same no matter who is in the other dugout,” Vanderford said. “Once we got the first game of the season under our belt, the second game looked more like us. We still need a few more hits here and there and fewer scoreless innings, but hopefully, we’ll show up better tomorrow.”

Texas State will continue to defend its home turf as it hosts Kennesaw State University in its next matchup.

The first pitch between Texas State and Kennesaw State will be thrown at 4:45 p.m. Friday, Feb. 9, 2024, at Bobcat Softball Stadium. The game will be streamed on ESPN+.

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