The last time the ASU softball team competed was in a semifinal loss in the Women’s College World Series last season.
The Sun Devils are eager to begin their quest for another championship this weekend in the the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe from Feb. 7 to Feb. 10.
ASU won the national championship in 2011 but came short of repeating in 2012.
The feeling is different coming off of finishing the season with a loss versus a win. There’s not as much pressure heading into the season compared to a repeat season.
Junior pitcher Dallas Escobedo took the literal approach and said this offseason was just two or three days longer.
“That’s what our big thing this year, practicing hard so we can be there those last two days,” she said.
ASU starts the season off with 27 consecutive home games. The Sun Devils will not leave Tempe until the middle of March.
The first game of the season for ASU softball is against New Mexico Feb. 7 at Farrington Softball Stadium. The game against New Mexico is the first of seven games the Sun Devils will play this week, with doubleheaders on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
On Friday, ASU faces Cal State Northridge and Indiana. Indiana finished last season 30-25, while Cal State Northridge went 10-42.
The next day the Sun Devils square off against Kentucky and Western Michigan and then close the Kajikawa Classic against Bradley and Boise State on Sunday.
None of the teams ASU is facing is currently ranked in either the NFCA Coaches’ Poll or the ESPN.com USA Softball Poll.
Kentucky received votes in both polls and finished last season with a .500 record. It finished the season No. 34 in RPI after losing in the regionals of last year’s postseason.
The Kajikawa Classic features strong competition, but ASU avoids facing any schools in the Top 10.
One of the biggest question marks heading into opening day is how ASU will replace the talented players who graduated. At a consistently strong school such as ASU, they reload.
Losing shortstop Katelyn Boyd hurts significantly. Boyd led ASU in just about every offensive category, including batting average, home runs, steals, runs and RBIs.
Boyd will likely be replaced by junior shortstop Cheyenne Coyle, who transferred from Florida after being dismissed from the Gators.
“We were really lucky,” coach Clint Myers said. “We have a young lady by the name of Cheyenne Coyle who was an All-SEC player. Cheyenne in her own right is a phenomenal player, so we were lucky there to find someone of her stature and her experience. That’s a key position in the middle of the field. You’ve got to have an experienced person in there.”
The murkiest situation heading into the season is the position battle at first base. ASU has to replace Annie Lockwood, who started at first base last season but graduated.
Myers said the trio of sophomore Bethany Kemp, freshman Nikki Girard and freshman Jennifer Soria would compete for the vacant position.
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