Coming off a nightmare weekend in which its offense struggled, losing three out of the four games it played, ASU softball wasn’t looking forward to have to come out to Farrington Stadium on Monday night and play against Detroit in a make-up game.
But after a dominating 16-2 victory over the Titans (2-13), the Sun Devils (20-3) are back on track.
“Oh, it was crucial. Sometimes the best teams need to get knocked down a little to realize that they’re not untouchable,” junior third baseman Haley Steele said. “We need to re-evaluate our preparation and our mental game and come back out here and realize we need to play (ASU) softball instead of playing the team in the other dugout.”
Senior starter Mackenzie Popescue and ASU dominated the first inning. Popescue induced consecutive grounders back to her to start the inning, then worked a ground out to first to end the opening half of the first inning. ASU’s bats came alive in the bottom half, jump-started by a perfectly laid bunt for hit by senior center fielder Alix Johnson, who beat out the catcher’s throw to first.
After junior left fielder Elizabeth Caporuscio popped out to third base in foul territory, Johnson stole second base and advanced to third on a passed ball as third basemen Steele walked.
Senior shortstop Cheyenne Coyle cleared the bases with a first pitch shot to right field for her sixth home run of the season, giving ASU a 3-0 lead.
Detroit got one run back in the second, as senior first baseman Christa McGahuey corked a home run to right-center field, the first home run allowed by Popescue in 11 starts. She rebounded to retire the next three batters. ASU regained its three-run lead in the bottom of the third when a botched exchange led to an error.
Detroit junior catcher Sam Henderson doubled to right-center to open up the third, and later scored on a two-out grounder up the gut from redshirt junior shortstop Kayla Kostich, closing the gap to 4-2 in favor of ASU.
But the Sun Devils broke open the game in the bottom of the third. Coyle walked to lead off, and scored on freshman shortstop Chelsea Gonzales’ double down the third base line. Junior first baseman Bethany Kemp followed that with a two-run blast to left-center, scoring Gonzales.
A pair of walks forced the Titans to bring in junior Kat Hoffman to pitch, who started the game in center field, and the floodgates opened from there. A Johnson ground out scored another run, and Caporuscio lined a shot over the third basemen to plate two more. Steele followed that with her fifth homer of the year, scoring Caporuscio, giving ASU a commanding 11-2 lead.
Sophomore right-hander Jenna Makis came in to relieve Popescue in the fourth inning and worked an easy 1-2-3 inning. With a strong lead, ASU continued to pour it on in the bottom of the fourth.
Redshirt freshman Mandi Grebe plated two runs with a double to left as a pinch-hitter, and later scored on Steele’s single. The double from Grebe was her first collegiate hit. A single from sophomore Abby Spiel loaded the bases, and two more runs came in on hit-by-pitches as ASU took a 16-2 lead.
With the game in hand, ASU looked to end it after Detroit’s bats in the fifth inning. Makis induced a grounder to shortstop to start the inning, and after a liner caught by third baseman Steele, Makis struck out Hoffman looking to close out the victory.
Having played in what was scheduled to be an off day, ASU will come out to Farrington Stadium again Tuesday night to take on the Longwood Lancers, then heads out to Fullerton, Calif., for a five-game set in the Judi Garman Classic. ASU will face ranked teams Nebraska and Michigan as well as Texas, San Jose State, and Wisconsin before beginning Pac-12 play.
Coyle emphasized that the quality of the teams ASU has on its remaining schedule is not its focus.
“Just (focus on) coming out, playing ASU softball, getting good pitches to hit, priding ourselves on being aggressive but aggressively selective,” Coyle said. “Really just not letting up for anyone and playing basically against ourselves more instead of the other team. That’s what we said after the losses is w e can’t look into who we’re playing, just focusing on playing ASU softball and not who we’re playing.”
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