Softball will return to action for the first time in nearly a year when its hosts UTEP in the Wildcat Invitational Feb. 12.
ACU’s season last year ended abruptly in the first season for head coach Abigail Farler due to coronavirus. Now Farler will undergo her first full season managing the Wildcats.
“We feel like we’re now starting to get into a rhythm and have an identity as a program,” Farler said. “It’s really exciting to just have a full schedule coming into this. Now we know who we are, how we play ball, and how we want our opponents to have to compete against us. We’re just ready.”
The Wildcats open their season at home for the first time since 2014, ACU’s first season at the Div. I level. Along with UTEP, Tarleton and Utah Valley, ACU hosts the Oklahoma Sooners. Last season, the Wildcats played at Norman versus the Sooners and lost 4-2.
“I expect to compete really hard and play our style of ball,” Farler said. “We did that last year when we played them and had a really good 4-2 game. We had some really nice highlights, it didn’t go our way, but we expect to compete that same way at home here. Oklahoma is a very well respected ball club but they’re a ball club just like us. They play with the same amount of people, they have the same roster, and they have the same rules. We’re just going to go out there and compete.”
The opening home tournament will give Wildcat fans a chance to see their softball team since their series at McNeese last year in March. The Wildcats only had two home games due to coronavirus cancellations last year but have 20 at home this season.
“I have very high expectations for this season,” Katelyn Belch, a senior utility player from Wylie, said. “Everything happens for a reason. There was a reason why my junior season got shortened to make us really appreciate everything we have in softball. I feel like we lost a lot in terms of just the momentum. We had some really good players and we were coming off a really good series against McNeese. Everything happened last year for a reason so that we can go out and win a championship this year.”
ACU went 7-17 last season before the pandemic canceled their season. Farler hopes to turn things around this season through defensive intensity and being aggressive at the plate.
“We’re gonna see a whole lot of defensive improvements,” Farler said. “We’re starting to get into a rhythm. Now we’re gonna know our strategy and know mechanically what we’re trying to do on defense. Last year was a year where we grew with knowing how we want to hit the ball and mechanics on our swing. Now we’re gonna have a better approach at the plate and being tougher hitters to get out.”
The Wildcats have six freshmen for their club this year but several returners. Farler has a good mix of veterans with nine seniors and eight total newcomers for the Wildcat program.
“We have a lot of newcomers but honestly what we’ve talked about as a team is it is all hands on deck this season,” Farler said. “Everybody has to be prepared to step up at any given moment in any inning. We really expect for all 23 players to step up and really contribute at any moment.”