Young new look brings excitement in 2023

Jonah Bostick, Sports Editor

The 2023 college softball season is less than a week away, and the hype inside and outside of the clubhouse is visible on both sides of the bayou.
The Warhawks look to replicate the success they had in non-conference play last season. They started hot, going 7-0 and finishing with a 17-10 non-conference record. They also took care of in-state rivals, including Southern, Southeastern and Grambling State. They split the series with Louisiana Tech. They lost to McNeese State in both meetings. Conference play is where they struggled, going 10-17 and suffering sweeps against UT-Arlington, South Alabama and UL-Lafayette. They were a first-round exit in the Sun Belt conference tournament. They finished 2022 with a 27-27 record overall. With the disappointing end to the season with four-straight losses, ULM can acknowledge the youth of the team in 2022. Only losing one senior in the offseason, the Warhawks can rely on the young talent across the squad. “It’s nice to be able to continue to build the culture and hit the ground running,” sophomore infielder Alexis Chavez said. “The consistency of having the same girls really helps with the chemistry and trust.” Chavez is one of the top hitters returning for the Warhawks, posting a .335 batting average with 52 hits, including eight doubles and 16 RBIs in 2022. Also returning for the Warhawks is senior utility player Kennedy Johnson, who produced a .342 batting average with 50 hits, including 14 doubles and three home runs in 2022. She also had the top slugging percentage with .514%. Returning on the mound for ULM is sophomore pitcher Kinsey Kackley. In 2022, she posted a 2.86 ERA and a 9-9 record. She pitched 124.2 innings, threw 114 strikeouts and allowed 51 earned runs. Opponents traveling to Monroe will get to witness the brand-new softball complex, which will be in use for the 2023 season. The complex will play host to 27 home games in 2023. The season starts with the Best on the Bayou Classic on Feb. 10. Those expecting another easy non-conference run will be disappointed when they see the teams coming to the complex. “There are a lot of teams that we’re excited to play,” Chavez said. “Definitely excited to play LSU and Mississippi State at our new field.” The matchups with the SEC powers will be a key moment for the season, and fans will be expected to show out. Non-conference will also feature the Wilson Invitational in Long Beach, California and the UAB Tournament. Matchups with in-state opponents like Nicholls, McNeese State and Louisiana Tech will also fill up the non-conference slate. Conference play pits ULM against new Sun Belt members, including Marshall and Southern Miss. ULM will also face top teams in UL-Lafayette, South Alabama and Texas State. The Warhawks finished 2022 with a combined 2-7 against the top three Sun Belt teams. “We need to be able to adjust from pitcher to pitcher quickly,” Chavez said. “This is a game of adjustments. Whoever adjusts first will come out on top.” ULM opens as the ninth-ranked team in the Sun Belt preseason poll. With the returning starters and new program look, The Warhawks could be a dark horse for the Sun Belt Conference Championship.