Eventually, the ASU softball team (29-2) needed to play on the road.
After 26 consecutive home games to start the season against a mostly soft schedule, the Sun Devils were finally tested in the Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, Calif.
In its final tune-up before Pac-12 play began, ASU faced three ranked teams and battled away from the friendly confines of Tempe.
In the opener, ASU crushed host school Cal State Fullerton (13-15) 9-0. Junior pitcher Mackenzie Popescue tossed a complete game shutout by striking out nine hitters and allowed only five hits.
Junior outfielder Alix Johnson homered and collected three hits in the opener. Junior shortstop Cheyenne Coyle matched Johnson with three hits.
Against No. 10 Texas (27-4), junior pitcher Dallas Escobedo one-upped Popescue’s complete game shutout. Escobedo also went the distance, struck out 13, and only allowed three hits.
ASU handed senior Texas pitcher Blaire Luna (13-1) her first loss on the season.
Both ASU and Texas had only three hits in the game, and each stranded eight runners. ASU was able to drive in two of their runs without needing a hit by scoring a run on a failed fielder’s choice and another on an RBI groundout.
On Friday, the Sun Devils suffered a heart-breaking defeat at the hands of No. 14 Michigan (21-7).
ASU led 4-3 in the sixth inning and Michigan had a runner on at first with one out.
Then Escobedo made a throwing error, allowing two runners to move into scoring position.
Later in the inning, Escobedo allowed a go-ahead two-run single to Michigan senior third baseman Amy Knapp.
ASU could not step offensively when it mattered and stranded runners in scoring position in each of the final six innings.
ASU pounded 14 hits in seven innings, but it couldn’t drive in runners on base. ASU stranded 12 runners total in the game, many in scoring position.
Senior second baseman Sam Parlich had four hits, while junior outfielder Bailey Wigness and sophomore second baseman Haley Steele each had three.
In the later Friday game against No. 21 Virginia Tech (18-4), Popescue tossed her second consecutive shutout facing.
ASU did not score a run in the first three innings.
But its offense started to figure out freshman Virginia Tech pitcher Maggie Tyler. ASU scored five runs in the fourth inning, forcing her out of the game.
The Hokies first relief pitcher faced four batters and retired none of them.
ASU eventually scored 11 runs against Virginia Tech, powered by 16 hits.
In the final game of the Judi Garman Classic, ASU hung on for a 5-4 victory over Pacific (15-14) in eight innings.
ASU led 4-2 in the seventh, but Escobedo allowed two runs on junior catcher Amy Moore’s single.
ASU started the eighth with a runner at second. In NCAA softball, if coaches agree before the game, the hitter due up ninth in an extra inning will start at second base. ASU did not play by that rule in their other extra-inning game.
Freshman first baseman Nikki Girard took advantage of having a runner already at second base with game-winning RBI single.
Reach the reporter at Justin.Janssen@asu.edu