ASU softball continued to prove its offensive depth in the lineup as it run-ruled Drake 9-1 in six innings, and Idaho State 13-4 in five innings at the Diamond Devil Invitational.
Coach Craig Nicholson has put numerous lineups through a trial run over the weekend opening opportunities for younger players to show their worth to the ball club, like sophomore center fielder Jennifer Soria who grabbed three hits in her start against the Bengals (6-5) after a two-home-run night against the same team yesterday.
“I think I had an advantage after seeing her last night, so I kind of knew what she was going to throw to me,” Soria said. “I’m just staying relaxed and letting her come to me.”
Soria embodied something that every quality team needs: players who are ready to perform no matter the situation. What separated the Sun Devils (17-0) this weekend wasn’t that certain people carried the team, but that any player was ready to help out if Nicholson needed it.
“Different people are coming through in different days,” Nicholson said. “Being able to get production from all different parts of our lineup is huge for us.”
Of course, the Sun Devils have their starters that are the anchors of the team, such as senior center fielder Alix Johnson who hit a grand slam as the designated hitter against the Bengals, but having athletes ready to step in when the anchors need rest is crucial to a successful team.
The Sun Devils have taken the look of a championship team through the lineup. The players groove with each other, and in turn the entire team gels together into one unstoppable mass.
“We’re coming together as a team especially with the coaching staff,” Johnson said. “We have a lot of young players, but a lot of people are getting opportunities in these games and they’re getting a feel for what ASU softball’s all about.”
You don’t win 17 straight by accident, but even the younger members seem to be effortlessly taking down the competition.
The 17 wins haven’t come against the top competition, but Nicholson said he knows that challenge is coming.
“The competition over the next few weeks is going to get better and that’s good for us,” Nicholson said. “We need to go test ourselves against a better ball club and know how we’ll respond to that.”
Until that happens, the Sun Devils will continue to harness the skills they have not mastered. Currently they’re 25-for-30 in the stolen base category and launched more than a dozen home runs over the fence but they have “uncharacteristically” made several fielding errors on the weekend, Nicholson said.
Some of the difficulties in the field could be related to the rearrangement of positions with the younger athletes, and an honest lack of experience fielding some of the situations while backing up pitchers that are throwing more than 10 strikeouts a game, Nicholson said.
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