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Jordan Masek is congratulated by Coralee Ramirez after scoring a run earlier this season.

College Softball: Texas State opens play in the 2014 Sun Belt Tournament

As a No. 5 seed, Bobcats have work cut out for themselves

Texas State head coach Ricci Woodard isn’t concerned about her team’s opponents.

There’s only one team that the fourteen-year coach is worried about — her own.

“We understand that if we play our best ball, we are probably going to win,” Woodard said. “It hasn’t been that other teams have beaten us this year. It’s that we have beaten ourselves.”

So when the Bobcats opened the Sun Belt Conference Tournament in Lafayette, La., today, Woodard knows her team doesn’t have to look far to realize what happens when it’s clicking on all cylinders.

Texas State swept UT Arlington last weekend inside Bobcat Softball Stadium and outscored the visitors 23-4 during the three-game series.

“The biggest thing is we are really confident,” Woodard said. “We are really relaxed. Hopefully, last weekend puts us in a good spot for this tournament. We just outplayed them (the Mavericks) We made them beat us and they couldn’t.”

Texas State (26-29) played a rematch against UTA (20-32) at 12:30 p.m. today in the first round of the conference tournament.

If the Bobcats defeat the Mavericks, they would face No. 4 seed Western Kentucky at 5:30 p.m. today. The Lady Toppers squared off with Texas State in mid-April. WKU took two of three games from the Bobcats.

Woodard faces a dilemma on what order to throw her two starters — Rayn House and Ashley Wright — during the first day of the SBC Tournament. House is one of the SBC’s best pitchers as the senior leads the conference in strikeouts (214) and has the fifth-best ERA at 2.53.

Despite those marks, Woodard might want to save her best pitcher for the Lady Toppers, who figure to be tougher team to beat.

“I haven’t decided that yet,” Woodard said. “My plan right now is probably to throw Ashley against UTA. She has thrown against them a lot during the past few years and she’s had a lot of success against them.”

Wright toed the rubber in Game 2 of Saturday’s doubleheader versus the Mavericks. The sophomore walked five but limited the damage to one run over six innings.

Since Wright struggled in an April 23 home game with Texas (three runs in 1/3 inning), the sophomore has put together a strong stretch of games. Wright had a career-best start versus Troy on April 26 when she struck out eight and allowed only two hits.

Texas State hasn’t needed much from its starting pitching lately, especially with how well Woodard’s team is swinging the bats. Kelli Baker has led that effort — the second baseman went 7 for 10 during last weekend’s series with UTA and was named Sun Belt Player of the Week.

During last weekend’s three-game slate, the Bobcats also showed off their power as Woodard’s team slugged four homers, including three in Sunday’s 9-1 triumph. Kortney Koroll, who belted a solo homer in the second inning of Sunday’s tilt, has tallied a team-high nine home runs this season.

While Woodard doesn’t want her team to look too far ahead, she knows the importance of getting past the first day of the SBC Tournament. It’s win or go home since it’s a single-elimination format.
With two wins today, Texas State would move into the double-elimination segment of the tournament. In that case, the Bobcats would play top-seeded UL Lafayette on Thursday. Even with a loss against the Ragin’ Cajuns, Texas State wouldn’t be eliminated.  

“If you survive until Thursday, you have a chance to win it all,” Woodard said. “Now, there is no new team for us to play. We have seen the strength and weaknesses of every team.”

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