Story by Zachary Larsen
It was a disappointing end to the season for Arizona State softball, losing in the Tempe Regional to BYU and Virginia Tech. The team spent the entire season ranked, including coming into the regional as the No. 12 team in the nation.
The program’s quick postseason exit leaves many questions heading into the 2022 season, with two key members of the offense graduating and the pitching staff looking to establish an ace.
Here are five questions coming into the offseason:
Who will replace the Hackbarth twins?
This is the biggest question coming into next season that head coach Trisha Ford will have to answer. Kindra Hackbarth, who hit leadoff this past season, had 10 home runs and hit .327 in her final season.
Her sister Maddi, who batted third, had a career year. She belted 20 home runs, which tied the program’s single-season record. Look for sophomores Alynah Torres and Jazmine Hill to step up in their absence as the pair goes into their third season.
How will the pitching staff shape up?
2021 featured the duo of freshmen hurlers in Allison Royalty and Lindsay Lopez. With fifth-year senior Cielo Meza graduating, that opens up another spot in the rotation or possibly two. One of the openings will most likely be filled by junior Marissa Schuld, who had to sit out 2021 following her transfer from Arizona due to an in-conference transfer rule.
She rocked a .40 ERA during her time with the Wildcats. If ASU decides to go with four pitchers, incoming freshman Mac Morgan could be a viable option. Extra Inning Softball ranked Morgan has the fourth best player on its Extra Elite 100 players list.
Who will replace catcher Maddi Hackbarth?
There will be big shoes to fill at the catching position. With the recent news of freshman Harleigh Braswell entering the transfer portal, incoming freshman Liliana Thomas will look to take over behind the plate.
The Honolulu native was the 2020 Hawaii Gatorade Player of the Year and was ranked as the No. 31 recruit in the nation by Extra Inning Softball. She could step in right away and make an impact.
The #Pac12 HR and RBI leader 😁@Maddihack23 also ranks 3rd in the nation for RBI pic.twitter.com/DuAWuvHxUm
— Sun Devil Softball (@ASUSoftball) May 13, 2021
Which pitcher could become the ace of the rotation?
A missing component to ASU’s pitching staff was a true “ace.” Lopez and Royalty split time almost evenly, pitching just over 120 innings a piece. Can either one step up and lead the rotation?
Or, will the experience of Schuld put her into the lead position of the staff? What is for certain is the Sun Devils will need a big year from their pitchers to compete for another Women’s College World Series appearance.
Where will the power come from?
ASU finished the season with 95 home runs, the third best mark in the country. However, the Hackbarth twins accounted for just over 30 percent of those bombs and both will be absent from the lineup next season. So, who could bring the power numbers in 2022?
Hill and Torres combined for 22 home runs last season and could make up the bulk of the long ball. Denae Chatman, who hit nine homers, and Makenna Harper’s 10 bombs, could be the other players that provide the power in the lineup next year.