Opinion: ASU softball is looking at a special season

Led by coach Ford, ASU softball is on track to make its best run in years

ASU softball is poised for a season unlike any in its recent history.  

Last season, the ASU softball team fell in the second round of the Oxford, Mississippi Regionals of the NCAA softball tournament. Now, with head coach Trisha Ford in her second year at ASU alongside a custom-built starting line up, the Sun Devils are in a position to take the team further than ever. 

Starting the season off with tournament play at the Kajikawa Classic, the Sun Devils dropped their season opener to SEC powerhouse University of Tennessee. They quickly recovered, going 5-0 for the rest of the weekend. 

Next was the Littlewood Classic, where the team swept the competition. Last weekend, the team went 4-1 at the Mary Nutter Tournament, losing only to No. 4 University of Oklahoma. 

A 13-2 start is no easy feat. Now ranked No. 16, the Sun Devils will head into the ASU-hosted Devil Classic hot off of a three-game win streak. This is not random or by luck, but a plan by a carefully constructed team which has been honed into a powerful machine. 

With home field advantage and with lots of momentum, it's safe to assume their record is only going to get better as the Sun Devils prepare for conference play.

Losing key players like Chelsea Gonzales and Sashel Palacios, who graduated last year, could have been disastrous for ASU. They left the team questioning who would fill the catcher and shortstop position. 

Thankfully, Ford had the right connections. 

Before coming to ASU, Ford was the head coach at California State University, Fresno. After seeing there were positions to be filled, she sought her former players to stack the defense. 

Plucked from the Bulldogs at Fresno, outfielders Morgan Howe and Kindra Hackbarth, along with catcher Maddi Hackbarth, have proven their value to the ASU team. Ford has also brought on University of Texas transfer Jade Gortarez, a sophomore shortstop who has come through in every game. 

The State Press ASU softball reporter Andrew Bell said he has been most impressed with the team's ability to act as a cohesive unit through all of the changes being made. 

"Even with these transfers, it's like they haven't missed a step," Bell said. "You wouldn't be able to tell that they brought in a lot of new players."

The transfers are not the only ones putting ASU on the map. A close-knit group of juniors who have come up in this program have started to make names for themselves.

Junior third baseman Taylor Becerra has been one of the team's leaders, on and off the field. 

"She's one of the most sure-handed, defensive players in the whole conference," Bell said. "She's one of the best defensive third basemen out there." 

Her influence doesn't stop there, as "having a player that's been there for a few years really helps with a program with new players," Bell said. 

Alongside Becerra are players like Fa Leilua and Skylar McCarty, both junior outfielders with remarkable power behind them.

"(Leilua) has a ton of power," Bell said. "For opposing pitchers, she's a scary hitter to face." 

McCarty was the starting center fielder for every game last year but has now shifted to left field as Howe has taken over center. 

"I think it's an adjustment," Bell said. "(McCarty) did not play poorly at all. I think it shows how selfless she is to move to a different position." 

Bell said the team's success directly links to the players' respect for their coach. 

"They look like they've been playing together for a while. I think that's really a credit to their head coach, Trisha Ford," Bell said. "When I spoke with players, you can genuinely tell that they really like to play for her and that she's a coach that they admire."

Between an incredibly strong defense coming together and having Ford as the head coach, it's possible that the perfect storm is culminating at Farrington Stadium.

Reach the columnist at kcdoyle2@asu.edu or follow @kellydoyle06 on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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