At several times in Thursday’s game, it felt like the No. 3 ASU softball team was taking batting practice against North Dakota.
In a 15-7 win over North Dakota (2-5), ASU (17-0) smacked five home runs and 11 of the team’s 15 runs came off homeruns.
ASU freshman first baseman Nikki Girard started the avalanche of long balls with a grand slam in the first inning, her first career homerun.
“Finally,” Girard said. “I don’t really hit a lot of grand slams or home runs period. It was nice to finally get one.”
In the second inning, junior outfielder Alix Johnson and sophomore third baseman Haley Steele each connected on home runs.
Steele had three hits on the evening, including two homeruns and six RBIs.
“I’m just bouncing back from a rough start,” Steele said. “I just really tried to simplify things.”
In that second inning, sophomore outfielder Elizabeth Caporuscio reached base on a North Dakota pitcher Michelle Frank’s bad error. Frank fielded a comebacker cleanly, and then she short hopped an easy throw to first base, pulling the first baseman off the base.
Steele came up to the plate next and made North Dakota pay for the error.
“She was patient,” Myers said of Steele. “She didn’t leave the zone, and she put good swings on good pitches.”
In the third inning, ASU added a few insurance runs when a pitch hit sophomore catcher Amber Freeman with the bases loaded. Later in the inning, Steele hit a two-run double off the pitcher’s glove, giving ASU an 11-1 lead.
However, the game didn’t end quite as smoothly as ASU would have liked. In the fifth inning, many substitutes entered the game with the comfortable 10-run lead.
There were five bad defensive plays in a row for the Sun Devils in the inning, though only one error was actually charged.
Myers said the defense has to get better and added the team has too good of athletes to be making these kind of mistakes.
First, a slow roller in the infield evaded redshirt freshman pitcher Jenna Makis. The second baseman couldn’t quite field the ball in time. Then, a batter reached on a single off freshman first baseman Bethany Kemp’s glove.
A run scored after a line drive bounced off junior shortstop Cheyenne Coyle’s glove. Coyle made an error on the next play with an off-target fielder’s choice throw. Finally, Steele saw a runner dart for home on a ground ball. The runner retreated to third, and ASU couldn’t convert the pickle.
After all those miscues, North Dakota finally cashed in with a grand slam, cutting the score to 11-7.
In the bottom of the frame, ASU’s bats went to work again. Freeman hit a two run homer. A few batters later, Steele hit her second two-run home run of the game, a walk-off shot.
When ASU’s offense played like they did Thursday, it will be tough to stop. The Sun Devils had 12 hits and walked more times (five) than they struck out (four).
“It’s about getting quality pitches,” Myers said. “A home run is nothing more than a byproduct of a good swing. We’re starting to take better swings.”
Reach the reporter at Justin.Janssen@asu.edu