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Trisha Ford
Texas A&M players
Texas A&M Softball

2023 Texas A&M softball preview: Ford & Co. open season on Thursday

February 6, 2023

It's a new era at Davis Diamond.

For the first time since 1997, Texas A&M softball has a new head coach as Trisha Ford begins her Aggie tenure this week.

"We're getting excited to get going for this season," Ford said on Saturday. "We've had a lot of preparation. This team has been very excited to get coached hard, excited to get pressed and feel uncomfortable. I really commend that ability to take us in."

With a new staff in place and plenty of new faces, things are expected to look a little different on the diamond this spring.

However, the Aggies' goal remains the same: Be one of the nation's premier programs.

Picked to finish 12th in the SEC, Ford & Co. will begin the quest of proving their detractors wrong this weekend in the Texas A&M Invitational.

"I think we're going to surprise some people… We're going to play hard. We're going to play gritty. We're going to punch some people in the mouth."
- A&M head coach Trisha Ford

"I think we're going to surprise some people," Ford said. "I like where they think we're going to be, and we'll talk at the end of the year where we end up being. We're going to play hard. We're going to play gritty. We're going to punch some people in the mouth."

With Thursday's season opener against Tarleton quickly approaching, here's a brief rundown of what to expect from the Maroon & White.

Storylines to Watch

• Pitching by Committee: Ford has expressed her passion for pitching numerous times since her June arrival in Aggieland. She'll have a number of options to turn to in the circle this spring.

"I think we're going to be a staff," Ford said. "I think we're going to pitch by committee. I think we're also going to go with some matchups. The luxury of having five pitchers that are very diverse in their repertoire, we're going to be able to use them in different situations."

Hard-throwing left-hander Emiley Kennedy posted a 2.94 ERA with 110 strikeouts in 41 appearances as a true freshman last season. Transfer Emily Leavitt earned Big Ten All-Freshman honors in 2022 at Minnesota.

"We played her in regionals last year when she was at Minnesota," infielder Rylen Wiggins said of Leavitt. "To be fair, we're a better fit for her, to say the least. I'm really excited to see what she's able to do."

Other returners that will see time in the circle include Grace Uribe and Shaylee Ackerman, as well as Arizona State transfer Madison Preston.

• 'Fun' Offense: The big bats of All-American Haley Lee and Katie Dack are gone. Still, the Aggies have plenty of power in the box. Wiggins, Trinity Cannon, Bre Warren and Morgan Smith are back, and Oklahoma State transfer Julia Cottrill brings WCWS experience and power with her to Aggieland.

Madelyn Giles, TexAgs
Second baseman Rylen Wiggins hit 11 home runs as a sophomore in 2022, which is the highest total among A&M returners.

"It's definitely a different philosophy, but I'm just more excited to get in the box and swing hard at strikes and not have to think so much," Wiggins said. "Every swing we take, we take with intent. Every ball we see, we swing at with intent."

However, the 12th Man should expect a more aggressive offensive style under the direction of Ford and Jeff Harger. Koko Wooley, who stole 26 bases a year ago, will be a big part of what the Aggies do on the base paths.

"We get into the box with high intent," Ford said. "We're going to drive the ball. That's our intent. Off the ball. Over the wall. You'll hear coach Harger say that quite a bit, but we're going to use the short game. We have some speed. We have some options there.

"Everybody has their role, and that's what makes us great... We're going to have some pizzazz in that box."

• Limited Home Non-Conference Tournaments: Opening weekend's Texas A&M Invitational is the Maroon & White's only weekend homestand until the second SEC series of the year (Georgia, March 17-19). After that, they'll be at the Clearwater Invitational (Clearwater, FL), Mary Nutter Classic (Cathedral City, CA) and Ode to Joy Invitational (Waco) in back-to-back-to-back weekends.

"We have a really tough pre-conference schedule, and that's good for us," Ford said. "It's preparing us for conference play."

In the future, Ford hopes to split the non-conference 50/50 and host a pair of tournaments each year. However, she views going on the road early and often as necessary every season.

"I do think winning on the road is critical for us to be successful in postseason," Ford said.

With that in mind, A&M's postseason streak of consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances survived and reached 20 last year, but Aggies don't want to be sweating on Selection Day anymore.

"We want to host," Cannon said. "We sat down with coach and wrote down our long-term goals, game goals and stuff like that, and hosting a regional and super regional were definitely towards the top of our list."

Key Returners

Brooke Homfeld, TexAgs
After starting every game at third, Cannon is expected to shift to the other corner infield position and play first base in 2023.

• Junior INF Trinity Cannon: Started all 59 games at third for A&M last year and hit .288 with eight home runs and 42 RBI, which is tops among returners. Cannon has also seen time at first since Ford's arrival.

• Sophomore INF Koko Wooley: Perhaps the fastest player on the roster, she swiped 26 bags on 28 attempts as a freshman in 2022. Hit .359 from the leadoff in her debut season.

• Junior INF Rylen Wiggins: A middle infielder with surprising pop, the second baseman's hit 11 homers a year ago despite hitting .224. An All-SEC Freshman Team selection in 2021, the junior looks to take off as an upperclassman.

• Redshirt sophomore OF Bre Warren: Redshirted in 2022 due to rotator cuff surgery, but in 2021, the Aggie legacy was named an All-SEC second-teamer after hitting .308 with 11 doubles and 28 RBI.

• Senior OF Morgan Smith: A four-year letter winner from Lake Jackson, Smith started all 59 games in right last spring. The career .303 hitter is entering her fifth season at A&M and boasts an on-base percentage of .417.

• Sophomore LHP Emiley Kennedy: An imposing presence in the circle, Kennedy finished with a 13-11 record in 41 appearances as a true freshman last year. The hard-throwing lefty notched 110 strikeouts against 68 walks in 140.2 innings pitched.

Impact Additions

• Junior C Julia Cottrill: A two-time all-region selection, Cottrill helped Oklahoma State reach the Women's College World Series a year ago, posting career highs in runs (29), home runs (11), RBI (31), total bases (76) and slugging percentage (.613). The nation's toughest conference won't phase her either, as he began her collegiate career at Florida.

• Freshman C/INF Gracyn Coleman: A signee from Hanford West High School in Hanford, California, Coleman hit .608 with seven home runs and 25 RBI as a senior en route to Offensive Player of the Year honors in the Central Sequoia League.

• Freshman C/OF Riley Valentine: Originally committed to Arizona State during Ford's tenure in Tempe, Valentine was the No. 26 overall prospect according the Extra Inning's 2022 Elite Top 100. She hit .450 with 14 home runs and 49 RBI as a senior at Phoenix's Sandra Day O'Connor High School.

• Sophomore RHP Emily Leavitt: A Big-Ten All-Freshman selection in 2022, Leavitt appeared in 45 games for Minnesota, posting a 15-11 record with a 4.70 ERA. In 169.2 innings, she struck out 135 batters and faced A&M twice in last year's Norman Regional, both resulting in Aggie victories. 

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