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When Arizona State Vice President of University Athletics and Athletics Director Ray Anderson hired Trisha Ford as head coach in 2016, she left twins behind at Fresno State.
Kindra and Maddi Hackbarth followed Ford to Tempe after their freshmen seasons and the two etched their names in the ASU softball record books. Now, for the first time since Ford’s first year at ASU, the Hackbarth sisters are not on the roster.
“As much as you miss them, we have a pretty good program,” Ford said. “They were a part of building this brand, and we’ve developed some players throughout the years that this year will step up.”
On-field production aside, the sisters had integral leadership roles. While Ford said it won’t be possible to replace that, she is excited about how the team has managed accountability this season.
“We look different, and that’s not a bad thing,” Ford said. “Our team is in a really good spot both on and off the field.”
In her sixth year at ASU, Ford says she feels the program has begun to reflect the vision she had for it back in 2016.
“Every year that I’m here it feels more and more my program,” Ford said. “This year I feel very comfortable with who we are and what we are on and off the field. The pitching is where it begins and ends, and we have pitching for the foreseeable future.”
That staff will consist of 2021 breakout star junior Lindsay Lopez, sophomore Allison Royalty, senior transfer Marissa Schuld and freshman Mac Morgan. Schuld transferred to ASU last season from Arizona but was forced to sit due to transfer rules.
There won’t be a lack of Sun Devil softball veterans on the roster to carry the leadership torch. Graduate student and third baseman Bella Loomis, the longest-tenured Sun Devil on the team, has been at ASU all five years of college.
“It’s been a long ride (at ASU),” Loomis said. “I’m just taking it day by day with the other seniors, enjoying my time.”
Loomis’ freshman year in 2018 was ASU softball’s most recent Women’s College World Series appearance. Her experience alongside hallmark ASU players like Morgan Howe has prepared her for her role as the elder statesman of the dugout.
Jessica Puk will replace Maddi Hackbarth behind the plate. The graduate transfer from Ole Miss has already impressed Ford with her work ethic and demeanor.
“She has so much faith in herself and in the process,” Ford said of Puk. “She knows when to get on pitchers and she knows when to displace their thought process. If you find someone who doesn’t like Puk, I probably already have a problem with that person.”
Last year, she batted .252 and led Ole Miss in runs with 34.
“(Transferring to ASU) has been fun, I’m incredibly lucky to be here,” Puk said. “To finish out my career here is a dream come true. It’s a lot of fun to come out to practice every day.”
In the outfield, senior Makenna Harper, whose bat broke out last year, will be a major contributor. Junior Jazmine Hill is a lock for a starting position, and the third spot seems destined for senior Yannira Acuña, who split time at left field with Harper in 2021.
“I’m expecting big things from this team,” Harper said. “We have a lot of young talent, but I’m excited for this year and to get things going.”
The infield is crowded with veteran talent. Aside from Loomis, junior Alynah Torres will be going on her third year as the starting shortstop. Redshirt senior Halle Hager and junior Jordan VanHook are both upperclassmen who have started in the infield for ASU softball in the past.
Senior Mizzou transfer Jazmyn Rollin started 26 games in 2020 but hasn’t played since the softball shutdown.
The Kajikawa Classic from Feb. 10-13 will allow Ford to test her new players in various roles.