The ASU softball team finished nine games over .500 last season and has continued to improve in head coach Trisha Ford’s second year with the program, losing just nine games this year to become the No. 9 team in the country.
The reason ASU has found so much success this season is not just because of sophomore pitcher Giselle Juarez, who has a 19-3 record with a 1.13 ERA nor because freshman Danielle Gibson is leading the team with a .393 average and 33 RBIs.
ASU owes a lot of its success this year to players who are not everyday starters. These Sun Devils understand what the team is trying to accomplish and their role on the team.
“In practice they (the non-starters) are the ones pushing everyone,” Ford said. “The reason why our level of play has elevated is because everyone has helped each other.”
Senior pitcher Dale Ryndak is one player who has sacrificed her playing time for the betterment of the team.
After being with the Sun Devils for four years and through three different coaches, Ryndak has earned her place on the team as a leader and a great player, as she finished last year with a 2.37 ERA through 94.2 innings pitched.
Yet, this year Ryndak has only appeared in ten games for a total of 36 innings and has been successful in the circle, posting a 1.54 ERA.
For many seniors, these stats are more than enough justification to be starting at least once a weekend, but Ryndak doesn’t see it that way.
“I came here specifically to win, to finish out my softball career on a winning program,” Ryndak said. “And that is exactly what I am (doing).”
Ryndak understands that to be part of a winning program, she might have to make some sacrifices when it comes to her playing time, especially when the team has a pitcher like Juarez who has been dominate this season.
The senior has learned through her four years at ASU that a major key to creating a winning program is ensuring that the entire team is working toward a common goal.
She works to make sure this is happening by participating in a group with two or three representatives from each class (freshman, sophomore, junior and senior) on the softball team that meets bi-weekly. The group is designed to make sure that everyone on the team is held accountable and that everyone feels like they are a part of the team.
“We do focus techniques (and) checkup on how the team is doing with each week of practice,” Ryndak said. “(We are) just (keeping) the team on track because we are trying to do something special here.”
When she joined the team as a freshman, Ryndak remembers the goal was to reach and win the national championship, but that team, and every other team Ryndak has been on as a Sun Devil, lost in the regional round of the Women’s College World Series.
“It would be really special for me to finish out and finish that legacy because that is what those girls were trying to do,” Ryndak said. “They never had the chance to win a national championship or to even get there.”
Ryndak will need all of her teammates to be locked in if she hopes to reach the national championship, and after a series loss to rival UA, junior outfielder Morgan Howe spoke about how the whole team needs to work on making adjustments.
“It’s not just the starting nine that needs to make the adjustments,” Howe said. “It is the bench knowing what adjustment to make when they are up there. That way they can make it (and) capitalize on it.”
Ford believes that in order for the Sun Devils to be successful, everyone on the team must contribute whether that be in practice, in games or both.
She understands some of the players envisioned themselves contributing to a nationally ranked college team by using their talents during gameplay but appreciates that all the Sun Devils have adapted this team-first mentality.
“I think our team our group has done a tremendous job of not being satisfied where they are (and) pushing each other in order for us to rise as a unit,” Ford said.
Ryndak backed up her coach saying that every time the weekly top-25 rankings for college softball are released, it is sent in the team group chat to motivate the players.
“It is kind of funny," Ryndak said. "We don’t expect to be up there (in the top of the rankings), but we should be. With the way that we play and the kids that we have, we should be up there.”