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Potential is a funny thing. When it is fully reached, there are few limits to the possibilities.

But when wasted, there are few things more frustrating and disappointing.

The defending NCAA champion ASU softball team (18-4) is finding that out firsthand this season and is looking to maximize its potential this weekend in a three-game home series against South Dakota State.

The Sun Devils have the potential to get back to the College World Series, but will clearly have to take a different route than last year.

“We obviously have a huge target on our back every time we go out on the field,” senior catcher Renee Welty said. “Our opponents know they’re facing last year’s champions, and they always bring their A-game. We have to attack.”

Welty hit .600 over a three-game span to help ASU win the Wilson/DeMarini Invitational last weekend, a performance that earned her Pac-10 Player of the Week honors.

With only five at-bats, Welty blasted two home runs and drove in four runs. She finished the weekend slugging 1.800.

“When I was looking at the other names that were nominated, it showed me that I can compete with the best in the country,” Welty said. “It’s a real confidence boost.”

Sophomore first baseman Mandy Urfer said that she hopes Welty’s strong plate appearances will spark the rest of the team’s bats.

“We need to step it up on offense,” Urfer said. “Our defense is doing good, but we need to get our sticks going. We need to play ASU softball.”

ASU has scored 51 runs during its current five-game winning streak, while only giving up seven.

Despite ASU’s recent offensive explosion, the team is still concerned with scoring runs.

After losing five seniors, the Sun Devils have relied on a number of underclassmen including freshmen shortstop Katelyn Boyd, second baseman Christina Zambrana and pitcher Hillary Bach.

ASU coach Clint Meyer has experimented with his lineup during the early part of the season and is looking to find the right mix of players by the time Pac-10 play rolls around.

“[This weekend] we want to win every game in five innings,” Welty said. “We need to come to play hard and have some fun while we are doing it.”

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