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The University Star


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Texas State softball senior class further establishes program’s legacy

Mandalyn Lewallen
The Texas State softball team celebrate with the Sun Belt Conference tournament championship trophy following the victory over Louisiana-Lafayette, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at Bobcat Softball Stadium.

Winning the Sun Belt Conference championship and earning a win in the regional round of the NCAA Division 1 Softball Tournament is likely, in the opinion of many, not a bad way to finish a college career. For eight Texas State softball players, that is exactly how they ended their time playing college softball.

“The grit of this group was unbelievable to me; they just didn’t let the feel of the game bother them,” Texas State Head Coach Ricci Woodard said. “If they lost momentum, they found a way to get it back; if we were losing, they found a way to win. I like the way they went about their business and the way they carried themselves.”

While pitcher Jessica Mullins and third baseman Sara Vanderford headline the group of seniors who recently ended their time as a Bobcat with a bang, the other six players contributed to the program’s legacy in their own way. Those players are shortstop Hannah Earls, first baseman J.J. Smith, infielder Claire Ginder, pitcher Tori McCann and outfielders Piper Randolph and Anna Jones. Additionally, pitcher Karsen Pierce just finished her senior season and entered the transfer portal as a graduate student with one year of eligibility remaining.

“They left a legacy that will be hard to match,” Woodard said. “It’s taken us a long time to get to this spot even; so I think they just set the standard of what we’re going to expect from here on out from every class that comes in.”

According to Randolph, while the seniors saw great success in their time sporting the maroon and gold, a substantial amount of injuries this season and the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t make it easy.

“I think we have faced adversity more than any team,” Randolph said. “We came in our first year, and there was COVID-19, and throughout those years, we had to deal with that protocol a lot. And then especially this past year, we had like six or seven crazy injuries… what makes our group so special is I think we went through the most adversity, but we still handled it the best.”

While the Bobcats would have preferred to make a deeper run in the NCAA tournament this season, according to Smith, they still had a successful year.

“Heck, we won a conference championship, and we took Coach Woodard to a regional final for the first time ever in her career,” Smith said.

According to Woodard, having the amount of seniors Texas State softball had in 2024 is challenging to come by.

“You always want to play with seniors, and that’s hard to do in this day and age with the transfer portal and people deciding this is hard and they’re not going to do it,” Woodard said. “So to have a group of seniors that’s not only a large number but also be good at what they did [is special].”

Woodard said the group of seniors led the younger players by example.

“I think they talked behind the scenes with them a lot, but I think the biggest way they led was by example,” Woodard said. “You know they did exactly what they needed to do to be successful this year. They bought into playing the game one pitch at a time, they bought into not riding the highs and lows of the game, and they worked their tail ends off.”

Although many key players are leaving the program, many starters will be returning with high expectations in 2025, according to Woodard.

“The sophomores that were in the lineup this year got to do a better job for us next year, and I don’t know if they just were carried a little bit this year, but we’re returning four sophomores that got a lot of playing time and then Ciara Trahan,” Woodard said. “So there’s five kids that have to come back and do a really good job for us including that pitching staff that’s returning.”

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