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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

Three takeaways from Texas State’s Sun Belt tournament championship

The+Texas+State+softball+team+celebrate+J.J.+Smiths+%2825%29+home+run+against+the+University+of+Louisiana-Lafayette+in+the+Sun+Belt+Conference+Championship+game%2C+Saturday%2C+May+11%2C+2024%2C+at+Bobcat+Softball+Stadium.
Mandalyn Lewallen
The Texas State softball team celebrate J.J. Smith’s (25) home run against the University of Louisiana-Lafayette in the Sun Belt Conference Championship game, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at Bobcat Softball Stadium.

Texas State softball went 3-0 in the Sun Belt Tournament, becoming the 2024 Sun Belt Champions. The Bobcats defeated Marshall University 8-2 in the quarter-finals, the University of South Alabama 4-3 in the semi-finals and the University of Louisiana-Lafayette 9-5 in the finals.

Here are three takeaways from Texas State’s performance in the conference tournament:

 

The bottom of the lineup has the ability to hit well in big moments

In the semi-finals against South Alabama on Friday night, the last two hitters in the Texas State lineup came up with crucial hits en route to the Bobcat’s victory. First, the nine-hole hitter, sophomore outfielder Sydney Harvey, notched an RBI single with two outs in the sixth inning, allowing senior shortstop Hannah Earls to tie the game on a two-run single subsequently. Without this hit from Harvey, the Bobcats most likely would have fallen to the Jaguars.

The eight-hole hitter on Friday, sophomore second baseman Katarina Zarate, hit a walk-off home run in extra innings on the first pitch of the at-bat. The Bobcats had difficulty putting runs on the board on Friday, and big hits from lesser-known players propelled them to victory. With the NCAA Regionals approaching, having offensive players other than graduate student third baseman Sara Vanderford and Earls step it up is likely a sigh of relief for Texas State.

 

Graduate student pitcher Tori McCann and freshman pitcher Madison Azua can be counted on when senior pitcher Jessica Mullins needs rest

Mullins pitched 16 out of 22 innings for Texas State last weekend. McCann and Azua are the only other Bobcat pitchers who saw time in the circle last weekend. McCann allowed one earned run in 2 ⅔ innings out of the bullpen against Marshall University Friday afternoon. Azua allowed two earned runs in 3 ⅓ innings against South Alabama Friday night.

While Mullins ended the regular season as the NCAA Division I softball wins and innings pitched leaders, she can’t pitch every out of every single game. She will likely pitch more innings than her teammates in the NCAA tournament, but having McCann and Azua available to eat innings without getting into too much trouble gives Head Coach Ricci Woodard flexibility with her pitching staff.

 

Sophomore designated player Emilee Baker is a valuable part of the lineup

When junior outfielder Ciara Trahan suffered a season-ending knee injury against Baylor on April 3, it was viewed by many as a massive blow for the Bobcats, as she was hitting a spectacular .339 with a robust .389 on-base percentage. Trahan would typically hit in the two-hole, and while Harvey has taken over her spot in the outfield, Baker has taken over her spot in the lineup. 

Baker hit second in the lineup as the designated player in all three of Texas State’s Sun Belt tournament games, going 4-11 with three runs and two RBIs. Her slash line on the season sits at .318/.355/.409 (batting average/on-base/slugging percentage). Baker proved she can come through in critical moments and reach base at a high rate, and will more than likely hit second in the regionals this week with high expectations.

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