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With the spring ball opener coming Feb. 7, Texas State softball is bracing to defend their title as the reigning champs of the Sun Belt Conference Championship.

With an influx of younger talent and the departure of six seniors, including Bobcat all-time greats Randi Rupp and Ariel Ortiz, head coach Ricci Woodard is trying to figure out this roster’s identity.

“I’m still trying to put my finger on this team. I’m not sure I’ve completely figured them out, which isn’t too uncommon,” Woodard said. “There’s a lot of new players, probably a good mixture with a good group of returners at the top.”

With so many of the veterans gone, Woodard said she is looking to her junior class to take the helm.

“That junior class is going to have to step up for us, that’s where it starts,” Woodard said. “Bailee Carter, Haleigh Davis, Hailey MacKay, C. McDowell, that group that’s been with us, that’s had the game experience. They should be comfortable.”

Senior outfielder Kennedy Cline is in her fourth and final year with Bobcat softball and despite the highs of a championship win last season, she said she understands hard work is essential to winning again.

“It’s not like its carrying over, we don’t automatically have it handed to us,” Kennedy said. “We have to come back out fighting, just like we did last year and put in the same work.”

Taking the reigns of the pitching staff, Meagan King is stepping into the role held by former star pitcher Randi Rupp. However, King isn’t shying away from the spotlight and said she looks forward to stepping into the circle.

“I’ve always embraced it (pressure),” King said. “I love having pressure and knowing that I’m the one that can help my team out. That’s always my main goal, doing whatever I can to make sure that my team is put in the best position.”

Added to the roster in 2017, King has about a year of experience with the Bobcats under her belt. King said she believes one of her roles is helping coach freshmen players, of which the team has nine on the roster.

“Helping everyone through the process of being their first time in the season and having all these new experiences,” King said. “I think it’s our job to help make sure we lead and let everyone know what they’re doing so it can all go smoothly.”

Catlyin Rogers is one freshman that coach Woodard said fans should keep an eye on.

“Catlyin Rogers is going to be one to watch early in her career. (She) does a great job behind the plate (and) swings a nice bat,” Woodard said. “She’s going to be one that I think is going to be pretty dominant early in both areas for us.”

Texas State begins the spring season with a 2019 Bobcat Classic Feb. 7-10, opening with a matchup against the UTSA Roadrunners. Following a home game against the Baylor Bears, the Bobcats begin Sun Belt Conference play with a three-game series against the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns.

A notable matchup for Texas State is an Apr. 3, showdown against the Texas Longhorns. The Bobcats have faced the Longhorns seven times since 2017, besting their Austin rivals 4-3 so far.

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