A long season awaits the reigning national champions, but two stinging losses in the Kajikawa Classic this weekend in Tempe were tough to swallow.
The main goal for coach Clint Myers was achieving continuity amongst a team with four new starters, including three freshmen. In that retrospect, the team made progress.
“This is going to be a good ball club,” Myers said. “This is a good ball club now, but they have got some growing to do. They have got to understand the process and execution a little bit better.
“Talent-wise, I haven’t changed my mind. This is a very talented team. We just have to learn how to play.”
This came after the No. 1 Sun Devils (5-2) lost to No. 9 Tennessee in the marquee matchup of the tournament.
In the loss to Tennessee, sophomore pitcher Dallas Escobedo allowed three runs, but the Sun Devils’ offense couldn’t score against Tennessee sophomore pitcher Ellen Renfroe, even though ASU outhit the Lady Vols seven to six.
“We haven’t swung it well like we are capable,” Myers said. “(Against Tennessee) there was clearly no timely hitting. Great teams make their own breaks. We are still learning how to be a great team.”
The efficiency of the offense was the difference between the two loses, to McNeese State and Tennessee, and its three wins, against Northwestern, Texas State and Cal Poly.
In each of the wins, patience and timely hitting propelled ASU past their opponent. The collection of 36 walks created unease among opposing pitchers who were not accustomed to Pac-12 caliber players.
In the losses the Sun Devils, who were consistently pushing pitchers to give them a good pitch, got behind in the count and swung at nearly everything.
“You can tell someone something over and over as much as you want, but really the only way that they are going to understand is by experience,” senior shortstop Katelyn Boyd said. “You can tell them to be patient or get a good pitch or relax, but it just takes experience. It’s a learning process.”
Seniors like Boyd and pitcher Hillary Bach showed experience in the teams wins. Boyd had six hits, but also showed her patience and drew a team high eight walks. Her patience at the plate clearly rattled the opposing pitchers who couldn’t grab any momentum while she was at the plate.
Bach had the best weekend a softball pitcher can have. She followed a one-hit shutout against San Jose State on Thursday with a three hit shutout against Texas State on Saturday. On Sunday, she allowed two hits and no runs against Cal Poly.
“Our pitching has been good all season long, but we just aren’t getting the support,” Myers said. “I mean, it’s tough to win when you don’t score. I don’t care how good you pitch.”
After Myers finished talking, he pointed to Bach and said, “This young lady and the other two that have pitched already, I’d go to war with them.”
The lack of hitting was evident in the teams shocking 3–1 loss to McNeese State.
“I just didn’t think we were focused in the first game,” senior outfielder Annie Lockwood said. “The pitcher wasn’t that great of a pitcher and I think we underestimated McNeese, which you should never do. After coach talked to us and we looked at ourselves and realized we weren’t focused it was a totally different game.
“We really need to take that to heart for the rest of the season.”
Out of all the Sun Devils, sophomore outfielder Bailey Wigness had the best tournament. Wigness seemed at ease at the plate as she hit .667 and had five walks.
Another surprise was the play of freshman centerfielder Elizabeth Caporuscio who hit two homeruns, which she referred to as “the best feeling in the world.”
Caporuscio has adopted the centerfield duties and seemed to adjust, though she admitted it was difficult.
“It is a big learning experience, but I am willing to take on the challenge,” Caporuscio said. “Before every pitch, I just go through my mind what I have to do, where I have to be and who I have to talk to. That’s what’s getting me through.”
Reach the reporter at email@example.com