To open the season, the Sun Devils have eight returning starters, but second base is vacant after Sam Parlich graduated last season, leaving an opportunity for younger players.
Coach Craig Nicholson said there are two players in contention for the starting job: sophomore Nikki Girard and freshman Chelsea Gonzales.
Girard has more experience on the field, batting .274 last season starting in 41 games, while Gonzales has an impressive high school history and strong bat at the plate.
“We’re still up in the air, and we may go into the season looking a little up in the air,” Nicholson said. “Not because anyone’s doing anything wrong, but because we have two people that can really do the job well there.”
Gonzales said even as a freshman, she thinks she has chance for the starting job.
“I’ve been trying to work really hard to get to playing,” Gonzales said. “It’s a clean slate, so I’m trying to get my name out there and get at least a spot in the lineup.”
Nicholson plans to play both girls throughout the weekend and give chances to others. It will be a test to see how players do in new situations and what could come in the season.
“It’s hard to replace experience,” Nicholson said. “Even when the younger players are out doing a great job and producing, when it gets down to it, sometimes it’s hard to replace experience.”
The Kajikawa Classic is one of the largest tournaments of
the beginning of the season, when 25 teams will arrive Thursday at ASU to compete in a 60-game bonanza to kick off the season.
The tournament will be hosting a variety of teams from across the country with schools representing the Pac-12, Big Sky and Big East among other conferences, but Nicholson is not concerned .
“We’ll probably look at some Pac-12 teams, but we’ve got to worry about us,” Nicholson said. “We’ve got to make sure we’re locked in on what we can do better and what we can do.”
The Sun Devils will face Creighton and New Mexico on Thursday, NC State on Friday, Penn State on Saturday and Fresno State and UC Riverside in a doubleheader Sunday.
The Sun Devils come in ranked seventh in the NCAA, higher than any team they’re playing, but they are trying to not think about rankings.
“We just want to get after it and play the game hard,” Nicholson said.
Sun Devils open Thursday against Creighton at 5 p.m. at Farrington Stadium.
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