Sun Devil softball returns to Alberta B. Farrington stadium on Thursday. The team will open up the season against Tennessee as part of the annual Kajikawa Classic hosted in Tempe.
Head coach Trisha Ford will look to improve the team’s record in her second season at the helm of the Sun Devils. With a record of 31-22 (9-15) finishing sixth in the conference standings the team was able to qualify for Women’s College World Series tournament. They saw their season come to an end after a 2-3 loss to North Carolina at the Oxford regional.
Arizona State will return a majority of the starting lineup from last year. Although, Ford will need to find a way to replicate the production left behind from first team all Pac-12 conference players Chelsea Gonzales and Sashel Palacios who graduated this last year. Gonzales and Palacios combined for 23 of the Sun Devil’s 62 home runs in 2017.
Nevertheless, Ford has already started to retool the roster. The Sun Devils will welcome four transfers to their 2018 roster. Sophomore infielder Jade Gortarez from Texas, she started 40 games last season for the Longhorns. Junior outfielder Morgan Howe will be joining the Sun Devils from Fresno State. Howe played her freshmen year under Ford with the Bulldogs. She was an all Mountain West First Team member last year. Also, from Fresno State will be sophomores’ catcher Maddi and outfielder Kindra Hackbarth.
Returning to the Arizona State roster will be the entire pitcher staff from last year’s team. Senior Breanna Macha the team’s leader in wins will attempt to another accolade to her shelf after being named to the Pac-12’s Third team all-conference. 2017 PAC-12 all-freshman Giselle Juarez, senior Dale Ryndak, and sophomore Alyssa Loza will all return to the circle for the Sun Devils.
The offense should be carried by junior Taylor Becerra and sophomore Fa Leilua. Becerra led the Sun Devils in hits last season, while Leilua shared the team lead in home runs. Senior Marisa Stankiewicz and junior Skylar McCarty will also be key assets to the Devils 2018 offense.
The Sun Devils will face eight teams that finished in USA Today’s final top 25 poll during the 2018 campaign. That includes the opening game against the Volunteers and a Feb. 22nd matchup with back-to-back defending champions Oklahoma during the Mary Nutter tournament.
There will be no easy wins, but Ford and the Sun Devils look lock and loaded to make the school’s first trip to Oklahoma City since 2013.