Last year’s record: 48-13 (Third in the Pac-12)
Key Additions: RHP Cielo Meza (Transferred from Long Beach State), RHP Samantha Mejia (Transferred from Frenso State)
Key Losses: LHP Giselle “G” Juarez (Transferred to Oklahoma), 1B Danielle Gibson (Transferred to Arkansas), RHP Breanna Macha (Graduated), 2B Marisa Stankiewicz (Graduated)
The Arizona State softball team returns to the field on Friday as they begin their season with the annual Kajikawa Classic in Tempe. ASU finished their season last year in Oklahoma City with a Women’s College World Series berth. However, after losing their first two games to Oregon and Oklahoma, the Sun Devils still felt a hunger for more.
“It’s not the last you’ll see from us. We’ll keep building, give it all up at practice. You’re not, I’m telling you this is not going to be the last time you see Sun Devil softball,” said junior right fielder Kindra Hackbarth after the team’s final game of the season.
While there are parts of ASU’s team that have question marks, seven of the nine starters from their lineup return this season. Their top two hitters in terms of average in Hackbarth and senior center fielder Morgan Howe will be a focal point.
“We were really young last year. We have quite a few returning, obviously offensively and defensively for us, they’re comfortable and they know what it takes to play at a high level,” head coach Trisha Ford said. “They know the expectations, those seniors will not settle for anything less.”
With the departure of second baseman Marisa Stankiewicz due to graduation, it will be sophomore Bella Loomis filling at the spot. Loomis lacks the power Stankiewicz held, but is a top defender on the team and will add more of a slapping element to the lineup. ASU will also look to replace last year’s team-high 12 home runs from Danielle Gibson, who transferred to Arkansas over the offseason.
Sophomore DeNae Chatman will take over at first base for Gibson. It will also be the first full season after having nine home runs in just 89 at-bats.
“DeNae is just fun,” Ford said. “Somebody who enjoys the game, comes out everyday. Our philosophy with her last year was, ‘be on time, one time.’ And she was pretty frequently, and she’s still mashing.”
Another name to look for is freshman outfielder Yannira Acuña, who Ford said can hit the ball a “country mile.” Ford also alluded that Acuña will be in the lineup a lot.
There is plenty of questions about ASU’s pitching staff as it is entirely new this season. Ace Giselle ‘G’ Juarez left for Oklahoma over the offseason. Alyssa Loza also transferred, as she went to Mississippi State. Breanna Macha and Dale Ryndak both graduated, leaving no returners in the circle for ASU.
Ford got redshirt junior Cielo Meza from Long Beach State. Meza won Big West pitcher of the year last season with her 22-4 record and 1.48 ERA. She was also nominated to the Top 50 Watch List for player of the year by USA Softball.
“She’ll tell you the last couple of weeks, she’s really felt better than ever,” said Ford of Meza. “She’s ready to take this program to where we expect it to go, she embraces it, she enjoys the challenge. Cielo has done just a great job.”
ASU also added junior righty Samantha Mejia from Frenso State, who was second team All-Mountain West in 2018. Freshmen Mikayla Santa Cruz and Abby Andersen will also be a part of the staff.
The Sun Devils start their season on Friday, starting the first part of their doubleheader against Western Michigan at Farrington Stadium.
C - Maddi Hackbarth
1B - DeNae Chatman
2B - Bella Loomis
SS - Jade Gortarez
3B - Taylor Becerra
LF - Skylar McCarty
CF - Morgan Howe
RF - Kindra Hackbarth
P - Cielo Meza
P - Samantha Mejia