ASU softball has been nothing but constant offensive barrages and dominant defensive work this season, but despite the two wins on Saturday against Illinois State and San Jose State, the Sun Devils did not look to be in peak form.
So far this season under coach Craig Nicholson, when the Sun Devils (11-0) have been in the batter’s box, fans could expect a hit almost every inning, but it took them almost halfway through the game with the Red Birds (2-6) to see a batter on base.
It was not until a double from junior catcher Amber Freeman broke the cycle after the first eleven batters were sent to the dugout without resistance.
“We didn’t play very well today I felt like we were a little flat early,” Nicholson said.
The Sun Devils are used to have runs across the board but against the Red Birds it was all about well-timed hits in the fourth inning by sophomore second baseman Nikki Girard and senior outfielder Alix Johnson to put runs on the board. It’s not that the Sun Devils weren’t getting pitches to hit, but that they weren’t looking for the right ones.
“I think today we didn’t really shrink our zone that much,” Girard said. “When we really shrunk our zone and people were getting walks and everything that’s when the one hits mattered.”
The offensively slow start for the Sun Devils changed in the second game of the double header against San Jose State (7-3), but fatigue, and errors took their own toll.
The trouble was that the Spartans were allowed three runs in the sixth, and another in the seventh after the Sun Devils took an early 7-0 lead in part because of junior first baseman Bethany Kemp’s two homeruns over the left field fence. However, what can’t be seen on the scoreboard were the loaded bases for the last batter and the very real chance of danger for the Sun Devils and coach Craig Nicholson.
“We’ve got to close the deal and do a better job at finishing what we start,” Nicholson said. “That game could have very easily been over in the bottom of the 5th but we give them life and they come back and end up with the tying run on base.”
Today’s double header was preceded by a late doubleheader Friday night that didn’t end until the clock almost struck midnight. The late delay of last night’s game, combined with the unusually high temperatures in February could have been an issue for players.
“I think we were just a little tired from the day before,” Kemp said. “It took us a little longer just to kick it in to gear but I think as the day went on our intensity improved.
The wins weren’t displayed in the same style usually present with the Sun Devils but a win is a win, and these two keep the Sun Devil’s perfect season in tact at 11-0, extending senior pitchers Dallas Escobedo to five wins and Mackenzie Popescue to six on the season.
The Sun Devils finished their showing at the Littlewood Classic with a win over a top-ranked team, but showed some cracks as the tournament went on. After eleven straight wins there’s no denying that this team is the real deal, but they haven’t finished the process yet.
“I think there’s still more in the tank- I think we can play better,” Nicholson said.
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