Will ASU Softball Rise To The Top Of The Pac?

Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY Sports ASU

The last Pac-12 team to win the Women's College World Series was Arizona State in 2011. 

Seven years later, are the Sun Devils on the brink of returning to the top of the Pac?

We know about Pac-12 powerhouses like Arizona, UCLA, and Oregon that are capable of making a deep run. But what about ASU?

In 2017, the Sun Devils finished 31-22 and 9-15 in the conference under first-year head coach Trisha Ford. That qualified ASU for the NCAA Tournament, where they won one game and lost two close games in the Oxford Regional to end their season.

Now, with one year under her belt as the head coach of Arizona State Softball, Ford is looking to make a lot of noise in the conference and nationally after building up the team during the offseason.

"I think that we have a much more balanced attack this year," Ford told FloSoftball. "We have increased our team speed, our pitching is solid and we have improved defensively. Pitching and defense are very important if we are going to make it far. I feel good about where we are right now and I think that we can make some noise this year. I’m excited to get on the field and watch this team compete."

What Did Coach Ford Learn In Year One?

Trisha Ford went from Stanford pitching coach to Fresno State head coach before taking the job at Arizona State. She says it felt good to be back in the Pac-12 conference competing against former colleagues. Now it's time to apply what she learned in the first year as a head coach in the conference to make sure the Sun Devils are competing for championships.

"There were so many things," Ford said about what she learned year one. "The relationships that I developed with the senior class were very special. We only had one year with them, but they made it special and they welcomed us with open arms.

"It is important that they give back and pay it forward for the next group of student-athletes. We have a very strong bond and I will forever be indebted to them."

Two of those seniors were team leaders Sashel Palacios and Chelsea Gonzales, who both stayed with the program as graduate assistants. Although they are no longer able to compete, they had an important role supporting Ford during the offseason program helping the team prepare for next season.

"It has been a very productive offseason," Ford said. "We added some needed players over the summer that have really elevated our competitiveness. One thing about my program is we will compete . . . every day! I think getting those juices flowing and understanding what makes your players tick is very important. It’s different for each player and it is important that you have all different types. Certain situations will have one player thrive while others are not a good fit for that situation. That’s how you get them to elevate their game beyond what they thought was possible. In everything they do, there is a standard."

Setting The Standard 

Year one was about getting started. Now it's time to compete at the highest level. That starts with SEC power Tennessee in the very first game of the season at the Kajikawa Classic. Then, two weeks later, ASU faces two-time defending national champion Oklahoma at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic.

The games against Tennessee and OU will be measuring stick games. Is ASU for real this season? Do they have a chance to compete for a title? February will give us a good indication.

Ford is certainly excited to see how the growth from year one to year two plays out on the softball field. And, as a former pitcher and pitching coach, she knows success starts in the circle with seniors Breanna Macha and Dale Ryndak.

"We have two senior pitchers that had great seasons last year, but I’ve challenged them to do more," Ford said. "They both have left the fall season with at least one additional pitch, which I think is important as you try to go through lineups for multiple innings. We also have Giselle (Juarez) back — she is healthy and throwing the ball well. I think this is going to be a big year for her, as she is special."

On the offensive side of the ledger, the focus is on power and speed — plus solid defense and fielding to back up the pitching staff.

"Fa Leilua provides us a lot of bang in the box, Taylor Becerra is silent but consistent, and we are looking at Skylar McCarty and Marisa Stankiewicz to have a big year," Ford said about her lineup.

"Our transfers are all going to give us something: Kindra is a triple threat and is a great baserunner, her twin Maddi is going to hold it down behind the plate, Morgan Howe hit over .400 last year and will do some damage in our ballpark, and Jade Gortarez will provide some much-needed stabilization at shortstop. She has some of the best hands I have seen and has a great feel for the game.”

"Our freshman class — I am excited to see what they can do this year. Bella Loomis, Denae Chatman, and Danielle Gibson will get their fair shot on the field. I’m excited to see what they do with it."

We're excited to see how the season plays out, too. It's been too long since Arizona State won the WCWS in 2008 and 2011. It's also been too long since a Pac-12 school played for a national title.

The goal is clear under Trisha Ford: get ASU back into contention for that title. It's their motivation to start every week.

Written by James Caldwell

This Week's Verbal Commits & Team Changes (3/22)

Orlando Jorge Ramirez/USA TODAY Sports Dirt Divas

If you follow the verbal commitments list from week to week, you may have noticed that Clemson is putting in work on the recruiting trail. This week alone, Tigers coach John Rittman has picked up three more strong recruits. Some players were committed to other programs but have since changed their decisions. Regardless, the prospects for Clemson's inaugural season in 2020 are looking brighter after adding one of our favorite Tampa Mustangs, McKenzie "Pie" Clark.

Join PRO Now to Get Unlimited Access to FloSoftball!

Join Now

Already a PRO Member? Log In

Eastern Michigan Drops Softball Program, Along With Three Other Sports

EMU Athletics Eastern Michigan

By Marc Raimondi

Softball is one of four sports programs being dropped by Eastern Michigan University, the school announced Tuesday.

From Houston To Babson, Meet Josephine Mares

Jo Mares

When Houston native Josephine Mares decided she wanted to pursue college softball and business school in the Northeast, she made the unlikely choice to join a club team from Pennsylvania. 

College Softball Weekly Recap: UW, UCLA See Undefeated Streaks Snapped

Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY Sports ASU

Conference play is slowly getting underway across the country, which means rivalries are being renewed and the level of competition is increasing. In the Pac-12 that meant college softball’s last two undefeated teams finally lost over the weekend, showing just how competitive things are going to be out on the West Coast in 2018.

Big Ten Weekly Viewing Guide

Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY Sports Lilli Piper

FloSoftball is providing live and on-demand coverage for 25 non-televised Big Ten softball games this week.

No. 14 Babson Holds Off Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Rolls Past Plymouth State

Douglas DeFelice/USA TODAY Sports Field

CLERMONT, Fla.—The 14th-ranked Babson College softball team racked up 21 hits in two games and extended its winning streak to five with a pair of victories on Sunday morning at Hancock Park. The Beavers defeated the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, 6-4, in their opener before finishing the sweep with an 11-3 five-inning victory over Plymouth State University.

Tufts Triumph 1-0 In Season-Opener Over Chicago

Douglas DeFelice/USA TODAY Sports Spring Games

CLERMONT, Fla. – Freshman Kristi Van Meter pitched a four-hit shutout in her collegiate debut and junior Kristen Caporelli hit a walk-off single as the Tufts softball team opened 2018 with a 1-0 victory against the University of Chicago on Saturday.

Transylvania Split With St. Mary's and Lakeland At THE Spring Games

Douglas DeFelice/USA TODAY Sports Spring Games

Clermont, Fla. – The Transylvania softball team forged a split on their fourth day of competition at the PFX Games on Thursday afternoon, taking a 3-1 defeat to the St. Mary's College (Ind.) Belles before defeating the Lakeland University (Wis.) Muskies, 9-1 in six innings.

Cathedral Catholic Pitcher Megan Faraimo Poised For Another Title

Don De Megan Faraimo Meet 2018 No. 1 Hot 100 Player Megan Faraimo

 By Carlos Arias @SoCalSidelines

For those who were hoping Cathedral Catholic of San Diego's star pitcher and No. 1 Hot 100 player Megan Faraimo would come down with a case of senioritis this season, forget about it.

Top Hitters & Pitchers To Watch At The Easton Invitational

Easton.jpg 2018 FloSoftball Live Event Season Has Arrived

Before the conference season ramps up, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Ohio State, and more make a pitstop at the Easton Invitational this weekend in Fullerton, California. Check out some of the top hitters and pitchers to keep on your radar during the 2018 season.