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The Bobcats rush around home base to celebrate freshman Sara Vanderford’s home run hit during the game against St. Mary’s Oct. 18. Photo credit: Kate Connors

Five months after a disappointing end to their 2019 season and five months before a shot at redemption in conference play, Bobcat softball put in an impressive performance with a 13-5 victory against St. Mary’s at home on Friday.

The ‘Cats are 4-0 in fall play, taking each game by a margin of at least three runs in all of their offseason performances.

Texas State started the game with a two-run lead off the bat of freshman infielder Sara Vanderford, who brought in herself and senior infielder Bailee Carter with a home run in the first inning. The ‘Cats moved up to a 4-0 lead coming into the fifth inning, bringing in Carter once more off of a triple from junior infielder Eliza Eberhard in the fourth inning while shutting out St. Mary’s defensively.

A turning point came into the game when junior ArieAnn Bell stepped up to the plate, knocking a high-flying homer over right field to kick off an eight-run fifth inning. With the bases loaded, Eberhard ripped a line drive just short of center field to put in two more runs. The ‘Cats capitalized off of St. Mary’s three errors, turning in two more runs before capping off at 12-0 with two RBI singles from freshman pitcher Tori McCann and junior infielder Tara Oltmann.

The final run for the Bobcats came in the eighth inning after making moves off of another St. Mary’s error. Junior outfielder Marisa Cruz drove in the final run of an impressive 13-run game off a groundout from sophomore catcher Cat Crenek to put the ‘Cats at 13-0 into the final two innings.

St. Mary’s attempted a comeback in the ninth, putting in two runs before a three-run homer put the final points on the board for both teams. The 10-inning game proved another blowout for the ‘Cats with a 13-5 finish.

The pitching lineup pulled off a near-shutout for the Bobcats. McCann and junior Meghan King pitched four shutout innings apiece, with McCann giving up four hits with two strikeouts and King putting three strikeouts with four hits on the board. Sophomore Cassie Valdez closed out the final two innings, giving up all five runs despite only surrendering two hits.

The win came off of a 6-3 victory over SEC opponent Mississippi State and an easy 10-2 blowout against Blinn College on Oct 12. The ‘Cats also cruised through a win to kick off their fall schedule on Oct 5, conquering Texas A&M International with a 13-1 victory.

The ‘Cats have had a successful fall season due to their strong offensive performance, Head Coach Ricci Woodard said.

“I think we’re doing a really good job offensively and being aggressive at the plate and that hasn’t been our strongest point in the fall before,” Woodard said. “I think it shows probably a more mature team than we’ve had in a while.”

Despite being far from the regular season, the fall games are vital to get a feel for the team and keep motivation during the monotony of practice, Woodard said.

“Practicing for six to eight weeks, I’m not sure you’d figure out how good you really are because practice gets old sometimes,” Woodard said. “Getting to play different opponents lets you kind of know what you need to do and what you need to work on to get better.”

Next up for the ‘Cats are three consecutive home matches. Each game is important as they close out the next three weeks because it helps the team work on their strengths and weaknesses, Woodard said.

“We go back to work for another week, and the biggest thing we keep talking about is to not get satisfied this time of the year,” Woodard said. “We’ll use these last three weeks in the fall to keep getting better and so I think that’s probably the biggest concern I have right now is we don’t get complacent for the next three weeks.”

Texas State will suit up against Vernon College on Friday and Navarro College and the University of Texas at San Antonio in a doubleheader on Nov. 2 before finishing their fall season in a road match against the University of Texas on Nov. 8.

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