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Eight softball teams across the nation conquered Regional and Super Regional round gauntlets to advance to the Women’s College World Series. Sun Devil softball finished their 2022 season as the ninth team. However, the recent season’s end doesn’t spell disaster for coach Trisha Ford and company.
Now that the dust has had a couple days to settle at Alberta B. Farrington Stadium, the optimism around the program seems to shine brighter than the Super Regional loss to Northwestern.
“This stinks, but there’s a lot to celebrate, a lot to be proud of,” Ford said on Sunday. “We had a phenomenal year — a Pac-12 championship, hosting Regionals and Super Regionals.”
In other words, Sun Devil softball took a step forward this year. An ASU team many brushed off at the start of the season to finish as maybe the the third- or fourth-best team in the conference won the Pac-12.
It was a Pac-12 conference that featured seven regional teams in 2022, five of which advanced to the Super Regional round. Oregon State, UCLA and Arizona remain in contention for a Women’s College World Series Championship.
ASU went 8-1 against those teams this season and finished with a 43-11 record.
The takeaway from all of this is that Sun Devil softball has improved year over year. Ford’s team has quite literally made a leap the last couple of seasons.
“Last year, we fell short in Regionals, and this year we made it to championship Sunday for Super Regionals,” Ford said on Sunday. “ I want them to spend some time with each other. They’ve had a lot of blood, sweat and tears on this field and they have been champions, so for me, it’s really for them to have time with their teammates.”
While the expectations next season will be rather monstrous for Sun Devil softball, ASU fans should feel confident they’ll meet or exceed them. However, they’ll fight next season’s fight without two key players from this year: Bella Loomis and Jessica Puk.
Loomis spent the last five seasons bleeding maroon and gold for Sun Devil softball. This past season she made her impact on third base, turning stunning defensive plays on a regular basis. After her fifth season in Tempe, her ASU career has come to an end.
“It’s been the best five years, I am so grateful for coach Ford and all of the coaches,” Loomis said. “I’ve become such a better person from being here and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else finishing my career. This team was so special, we love each other so much and they’re going to go far next year and the years after that.”
Puk, on the other hand, transferred into the program just this past season. She found herself as the starting catcher and a leader on a team with enough energy to keep the city of Tempe running for weeks on end.
“I couldn’t have asked for a way better way to finish my career, and I can’t thank coach Ford enough for taking me in out of the transfer portal and embracing me for one year,” Puk said. “I really feel like I’ve played my whole career here and it’s been one of the best years of my life and it’s played such a big part in my heart.”
That’s what is different about this Sun Devil softball program. For some teams around the country, their championship window is a season or two, depending on the depth of the roster. This Sun Devil softball team was a win away from being in the Women’s College World series, and their championship window technically starts next year.
Certainly the losses of Loomis and Puk will be felt on the field and among their teammates, but next year’s team features nearly the same group.
The heavy hitters and top four of the order are all expected to return with junior Alynah Torres, senior Yannira Acuña, freshman Cydney Sanders and junior Jaz Hill.
Not to mention, every pitcher on the roster has eligibility left. That goes without adding a number of talented freshmen set to join the program.
While the offseason will play out, and odds are some players may transfer into the program, there’s one aspect of this season that will make next year’s team even better —Sunday’s 8-6 loss.
Part of the reason this Sun Devil softball team wasn’t expected to perform on a big stage this season was due to its youth. Overall, Ford has a relatively young team, with Sanders and freshman pitcher Mac Morgan as two key players.
This postseason experience is so valuable in the grand scheme of what the Sun Devils hope to accomplish in 2023. The wins over SDSU and the Cal State Fullerton grand slam were moments these players will remember.
The losses against Northwestern however, are the ones they won’t forget. That’s what seemingly sets this team up for a redemption tour next season.
Sun Devil softball will return some of the best hitters in the nation. There will be an offseason of growth for the youngsters. Most notably, it’ll be a team that was just a win shy of the biggest stage in all of softball, returning hungrier than ever.
There’s a quote from Billie Jean King, one of the greatest tennis players to ever play the game, that rings true to the ears of these Sun Devils.
“Champions keep playing until they get it right,” King said.
Sun Devil nation and the rest of the country will see the championship pedigree of ASU softball in 2023.