Sun Devils split series with Ducks

Hillary Bach throws a pitch in a game against New Mexico State on March 11. Bach is 15-0 with a 1.13 ERA. (Photo by Sam Rosenbaum)

The rain in Eugene, Ore., dampened the No. 5 ASU softball team’s momentum in a series that left both teams one win better and one loss worse than they had been before this weekend.

In the first game, No. 17 Oregon (23-7, 2-3 Pac-12) gave ASU (32-4, 4-1 Pac-12) all it could handle and pulled out a 3–0 win behind a stellar performance from junior pitcher Jessica Moore (15-5, 1.63 ERA). Nothing came easy though, as the Sun Devils’ lineup forced her to throw 136 pitches in her complete game.

The second game was a stark contrast. ASU jumped out to an early 7–0 lead after two innings.

The lineup stuck out also as ASU coach Clint Myers made a couple moves to spark the team.

Freshman first baseman Bethany Kemp made her third start of the season. Senior catcher Nikole Afusia, who has appeared in 21 games this year as a pinch-hitter, received her fourth start of the season. Sophomore Bailey Wigness, who has played four positions for the Sun Devils this season, made her second start at second base.

These shake-ups might have been what the doctor ordered as the team not only hit much better, but fielded better as well.

The Sun Devils recorded an error in both games, but in the first game, the team only had to make nine plays compared to 17 in the second game.

Sophomore pitcher Dallas Escobedo (12-3, 2.44 ERA) received the loss despite a tremendous pitching performance. Escobedo’s only earned run was senior infielder Christie Nieto’s first home run of the season.

The other two runs the Sun Devils allowed were scored off junior second baseman Sam Parlich’s fielding error. Parlich is having an uncharacteristically poor season, recording 11 errors in 2012 after eight and four in 2011 and 2010.

Nieto’s home run was one of only two long balls during the weekend.

The other was by ASU freshman third baseman Haley Steele, who continued her strong upswing in recent games with a 4-for-6 weekend. Steele has also made strides in fielding and now owns a .974 fielding percentage while being second on the team with assists.

Steele commented that she was feeling more comfortable before the team left for Oregon.

“I am still making a few mental mistakes, but I’m learning,” Steele said. “It’s definitely a change, but I’m becoming a lot more comfortable there.”

Senior pitcher Hillary Bach (15-0, ERA 1.13) continued her dominance through the first three innings against Oregon in the second game, but four doubles resulted in her being pulled in the fifth.

 

Reach the reporter at jjmckelv@asu.edu

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