Opinion: You haven't seen the last of ASU softball

The Sun Devils have few holes to fill for the 2019 season

Despite being eliminated after two straight losses in the Women’s College World Series, ASU softball is adamant that they will return once more. Their All-American ace pitcher, Giselle “G” Juarez has only just wrapped up her sophomore campaign, and they have grit up and down the lineup.

Not only will the team see the return of their hottest pitcher, but much of the starting lineup will be back. The biggest losses the team will suffer are that of second baseman Marisa Stankiewicz and No. 2  pitcher Breanna Macha, both of whom had solid careers as Sun Devils.

“I think if you look at our pieces that we have still in place, we were a very young team,” coach Trisha Ford said at the postgame news conference following the season-ending loss to Oklahoma. “We had obviously (Stankiewicz) and Macha who were just instrumental for us from a leadership standpoint, being seniors. But if you look at the starting lineup, we have a lot of sophomores starting. For me, that's exciting.”

While Juarez led the charge this season, Macha was an essential piece to the team’s success. It takes more than just one hot-shot pitcher to make it big. Juarez said she knew Macha had her back.

“She’s (Macha) really allowed me to step into her shoes this year, and we’re (a) one-two punch.” Juarez said. “She’s a huge inspiration to me, and I’m going to miss her a lot.”

Not only will Juarez miss Macha, but the team will miss her gameplay, especially considering it is now on the hunt for someone to fill her shoes next season. Either rising junior pitcher Alyssa Loza or an incoming freshman pitcher will need to step up.

Pitching aside, however, the Sun Devils will continue to be a tough opponent to beat on the offensive and defensive sides. With the departure of Stankiewicz, rising sophomore Bella Loomis has the opportunity to clinch the starting spot at second and do some damage. Loomis saw a fair bit of time on the playing time this season — 43 game appearances to be exact, so she will have the necessary experience for the job.

Additionally, first baseman Danielle Gibson and designated player DeNae Chatman added power to the batting lineup during their freshman campaigns, and they should continue to add pop come next season. Gibson led the Sun Devils with 12 home runs, and Chatman added nine of her own, despite not getting regular playing time until the last month of the season.

All of the young and returning talent for the Sun Devils makes for exciting prospects for the 2019 season. Ford deserves recognition for her work molding her team into an undeniable threat. She is turning her program into an elite power, like it once was back in 2011.

“She’s more than a coach,” rising junior outfielder Kindra Hackbarth said. “She’s all we can ask for. She pushes me to be the best person on and off the field.”

With two more years of Juarez, Ford’s leadership and a plethora of young Sun Devil talent, it is highly likely that this team will be back to the College Women’s World Series, ready to win games. They will be the team to watch next season.

“It's not the last you'll see from us,” Hackbarth said. “We'll keep building (and) 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.”

Reach the columnist at amblodge@asu.edu or follow @AndiBlodgett 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.

Want to join the conversation? Send an email to opiniondesk.statepress@gmail.com. Keep letters under 500 words and be sure to include your university affiliation. Anonymity will not be granted.

Like The State Press on Facebook and follow @statepress on Twitter. 

Get the best of State Press delivered straight to your inbox.