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Photo by Jamie Maury, TexAgs
Texas A&M Softball

Four-arm staff to carry Texas A&M's efforts in the circle this spring

February 6, 2024

Trisha Ford and the Fightin’ Texas Aggie softball team return to Davis Diamond on Friday to open the 2024 season with the Aggie Classic. We’re looking ahead to the upcoming season with our 2024 Texas A&M Softball Preview Series.

Davis Diamond is set to host the first game of the 2024 season in just a few days.

Last year was a time for adjustments in the circle for Texas A&M, but now it’s time for redemption.

The team that finished seventh last year in the SEC has been picked to finish eighth this year, according to the preseason SEC coaches poll. A year ago, A&M was projected to finish 12th but clearly far exceeded expectations.

The Aggies have not only claimed to fine-tune their performance for this season, but they have also adopted a mindset that embraces hardships and turning setbacks into opportunities for growth.

Ford’s Goal for 2024

Head coach Trisha Ford is determined for success before  starting her second season in Aggieland.

“I’m not here for us to not make it past regionals. That's not what my job is. My job is for us to be a perennial top-eight, top-10 team every year, and so that's what we're working for.”
- Texas A&M head coach Trisha Ford

“We have a lot of good ingredients, and it's going to be up to us if whether or not we can kind of put them all together,” Ford said. “I've got a good mixture of old [players], a good mixture of new, and really, they understand what to expect out of us now.”

Ford knows her team’s strengths, but she will not tolerate complacency.

“The team with the most talent usually doesn't win. It's the team that has the most cohesiveness,” Ford said. “You have to have a certain level of talent, but it's the team that has each other's back and responds to your lows and keeps your highs.”

She is committed to pushing her team to constantly strive for improvement and innovation.

“What I really want to see is us continue to step forward and play this game at a high level consistently,” Ford said. “I’m not here for us to not make it past regionals. That's not what my job is. My job is for us to be a perennial top-eight, top-10 team every year, and so that's what we're working for.”

Ford recognized that acknowledging strengths is only the first step. Instead, emphasizing the importance of continuous learning and adapting to meet the challenges of the extremely competitive SEC is a philosophy she plans to lean on.

Intending to develop even more as the season goes on, Ford believes the Aggies have learned from last year and are aiming toward becoming a nationally recognized team.

Ford also envisions a pitching staff that can effectively control and dictate the tempo of games.

During a Jan. 12 press conference, she highlighted the importance of having mentally strong players. This is especially crucial with her pitchers.

“That’s how you elevate the program: You demand more out of your athletes,” Ford said. “I’m a firm believer that it's parenting 101. When you demand a high standard, they [players] will rise to the occasion.”

Junior pitcher Emiley Kennedy said Ford has done an exceptional job with preparing her and the three other pitchers for the season.

“Coach Ford’s really good,” Kennedy said. “She monitors our pitch count and bullpens just to make sure we hit a certain amount per day.

Jamie Maury, TexAgs
2023 was Ackerman’s second year to see time in the circle. Under Ford’s guidance, Ackerman’s ERA dropped from 5.12 to 3.05 despite nearly tripling her innings.

Kennedy is joined by returners Emily Leavitt and Shaylee Ackerman as well as graduate transfer Brooke Vestal to round out A&M’s four-person unit.

“It's only four of us. We all need to stay healthy and stay in shape, so I think this year we've added in extra pitcher conditioning and cardio. So we're able to throw full games if we have to.”

Preparation truly is key for the A&M pitchers as they are the ones who can set the tone for the Maroon & White.

Ford’s Four Hurlers

Junior LHP Emiley Kennedy
During her 35 appearances last season, Kennedy struck out 110 and issued just 54 walks. She also led the team in innings pitched at 119.0 despite coming in as a reliever 24 times against just 11 starts.

“Coach Ford has been a game-changer for me,” Kennedy said. “Mentally, physically, she can look at you and be like, ‘OK, you're doing this wrong, and then you fix a little thing, and all your problems are fixed.’”

Kennedy’s 2023 record of 12-5 marks her as a standout player, including a no-hitter against No. 21 Baylor on March 4.

“I think she's really helped me with my change-up,” Kennedy said of Ford. “Just being consistent and getting my body mechanically correct so I can throw all the full games, and I can throw my pitches consistently when I need them to be.”

Even more could be expected from “Lefty” in 2024.

Junior RHP Emily Leavitt
Just behind Kennedy in innings pitched, Leavitt tossed a total of 95.1 innings during her 35 appearances her sophomore year — her first since transferring from Minnesota.

She also left the 2023 season with 98 strikeouts, 30 walks and an 11-6 record. Should she fine-tune a putaway pitch, Leavitt could join Kennedy and give the Aggies a pair of arms to reach 100 strikeouts in a single season after finishing just shy of the plateau last year.

Making 13 starts a year ago, one of Leavitt’s highlights from 2023 was a complete-game shutout against Michigan State on Feb. 11, which resulted in a 4-0 A&M win.

Graduate RHP Shaylee Ackerman
During her senior season, Ackerman made 29 appearances and racked up a total of 73 strikeouts and 26 walks in 2023. She also led the team in starts with 18.

After dropping her outfield responsibilities to focus on pitching, Ackerman pitched 88.2 innings with a 7-7 record. She also showed the ability to go the distance in a complete-game shutout of UCF last year on Feb. 17 as she guided the Aggies to a dominant 7-0 victory.

Graduate RHP Brooke Vestal
Vestal pitched at both Oklahoma and Ole Miss before hitting the road to Aggieland as a graduate transfer.

Vestal finished her senior year at Ole Miss with 22 appearances and a 5-5 record, including 47 strikeouts and 38 walks in 55.1 innings. She pitched four innings vs. A&M on April 23, 2023 — a 13-8 Aggie victory.

The newcomer gives Ford & Co. a third — and essential — right-handed option.

Discussion from...

Four-arm staff to carry Texas A&M's efforts in the circle this spring

2,186 Views | 2 Replies | Last: 21 days ago by taylorswift13_
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Amazing write up! Can't wait to see what our ladies do in the Diamond this season!!
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This is so well written for your first article Ms. Cantu! Welcome to TexAgs!
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