Nestled in San Marcos in central Texas is Texas State University. The home of nearly 39,000 students, the Bobcats also play host to one of the nation’s best pitchers.
“Any time that you put the ball in [Randi Rupp’s] hands, you have a chance to beat anybody in the country,” head coach Ricci Woodard said of her senior pitching ace. “She gives us a chance to compete with anybody on the field.”
After a 2017 season that saw the Bobcats put together a 42-17 record and five wins over Power Five teams, including eventual Women’s College World Series participant Baylor. “Sometimes when you have success, it’s hard for kids not to feel like they have to repeat that success. We are trying to approach this year the same way that we approach every year… I think the Baylor win was probably the biggest one for us because of the point in the season that it happened; it gave our kids a chance to get the feeling of what we try to tell them, that we all put our shoes on and play the game the same way.”
Woodard’s team earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament last season, but she says she hopes her team doesn’t change their approach. “We are trying to not talk a whole lot about the future and just stick to our process, and let our kids keep doing what has made them successful so far.”
In addition to her squad’s on-field success, Woodard says that she likes how her team has matured in the midst of that success. “Things can be difficult sometimes,” said the 18-year head coach. “This group has done a good job of maturing over the last two or three years. They are using the experiences and the knowledge that they’ve gained to go out and compete every day.”
On the offensive side of the ball, Woodard is looking to the heart of her order to establish her team’s offensive attack. “Our 3-4-5 hole had a lot of power last year for us,” Woodard said. “We need to get them more consistent, but they are all intimidating in the box because they don’t get cheated at the plate… last year, our team did a good job of being patient, maybe too patient, in the box. This year, we are working on attacking earlier at the plate.”
In a crowded Sun Belt conference race, Woodard sees an evenly-matched race that will include quite a few teams, including her own: “This is a tough conference; [Louisiana-Lafayette] has dominated for so long, but some other teams, like South Alabama and Georgia State, have been in the thick of things year-in and year-out. You could probably pick six or seven conference teams that will or could battle it out for the top spots… you cannot take a day off in this conference. The competition is great from top to bottom.”
“This group obviously expects to still be playing into May and even June,” said Woodard. “When you get a team that buys into that, you kind-of already have success. It makes my job a lot easier when they put their own expectations on what’s going to make this a successful season.”
Texas State begins the 2018 season against Sam Houston State on February 8th in San Marcos.