ASU softball bounces back from first loss in 8-0 win

If there were any questions as to how ASU softball would bounce back from its first loss, they were quickly erased as the Sun Devils (19-1) scored six runs in the first two innings.

ASU then rode the arm of senior right-hander Mackenzie Popescue to an 8-0 win over Florida International in five innings.

ASU coach Craig Nicholson said the mentality of the team was to come out and not focus on what happened the night before.

 

 

“If you want to be a champion, you respond,” Nicholson said. “I think our response today was very good.”

He said it helped that the season is still young and the focus is still on improving themselves, rather than their focusing on their opponent.

“We’re still at a point … that we’re more worried about us than who we’re playing,” Nicholson said.

Popescue pitched 2 1/3 innings of relief in ASU’s first game Thursday against Detroit, but came out with a fresh mindset against the Panthers (12-6).

“I think that’s really the mentality we have this year: gotta let it go and flush it,” Popescue said. “I just kind of go out there and throw the way I know how.”

FIU starter senior Mariah Dawson struggled with her command, walking five Sun Devils and hitting another in 1 2/3 innings before sophomore Corrine Jenkins relieved her and lessened the blow.

The Sun Devils’ scouting report showed potential control issues for Dawson, and the Sun Devils capitalized.

“We talked a little bit before the game about being patient and having quality at-bats and making sure we got good pitches to hit,” Nicholson said. “The scouting report said (Dawson) likes to make hitters chase and be a little wild. I thought we were more patient tonight than last night, and it showed up in eight walks in four innings.”

After failing to score for six innings Thursday night against South Carolina, ASU was quick to capitalize on Dawson’s control issues.

ASU senior center fielder Alix Johnson was hit in the helmet on Dawson’s second pitch of the game, but took first unscathed. She would come around to score just two batters later on a single from junior designated hitter Amber Freeman.

Five walks and 1 2/3 innings later, the Sun Devils led 6-0, and it could have been more. ASU stranded seven on base through three innings, and ended the game with nine total runners left on base.

However, Nicholson wasn’t concerned with the amount of runners left on base when ASU had 16 players reach base total.

“If you’re leaving nine runners on base and scoring zero runs in four innings, that’s obviously a concern,” Nicholson said. “When you’re scoring eight runs and getting all those people on base, at some point, you’re going to leave some people on base.”

The game didn’t get underway until after 9 p.m., more than two hours after its original 7 p.m. start time. But scoring six runs in the first two innings put to rest any concerns of it affecting ASU.

“We kind of chill around (during the delay) and make sure we get pumped for this game,” Popescue said. “So once we get out there, we don’t even know what time it is and couldn’t care less.”

Nicholson said his team is more relaxed, which helped it to not be affected by the late start.

“For the most part (we are) a pretty laid-back team,” Nicholson said. “They just kind of roll with it and adjust to it. I don’t think it had much of an impact on the game.”

The Sun Devils face Nicholson’s former team, Ball State, and No. 20 Minnesota on Sunday. He said there wasn’t any special meaning behind the matchup against Ball State.

Before then, however, ASU has a rematch with FIU on Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Farrington Stadium in Tempe.

Reach the reporter at ewebeck@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @EvanWebeck