ASU softball heads to No. 10 Washington

Senior outfielder Alix Johnson makes contact with the ball at a home game against Utah on April 11.  (Photo by Mario Mendez)

Senior outfielder Alix Johnson makes contact with the ball at a home game against Utah on April 11. (Photo by Mario Mendez)

It will be a change from the dry heat to the damp Seattle air for ASU softball as it looks forward to its conference series against Washington.

The Sun Devils (36-8, 12-3) are coming off a weekend sweep against Utah in a home series but the competition will be fiercer against the No. 10 Huskies (24-11, 4-7 Pac-12), who took two games against Stanford and swept the Pac-12 Player of the Week awards.

The Huskies find themselves in the bottom half of the Pac-12 standings after a rough start in conference play, but one strong weekend is not a concern for ASU coach Craig Nicholson.

 

 

“I don’t really think that’s a huge deal,” Nicholson said. “It says that they played well last weekend … but as far as I’m concerned, it is what it is. Every weekend is a new weekend and the challenge for coaches is getting their ball clubs ready for today.”

Offensively speaking, the Huskies have a lineup that’s harder to define than the Sun Devils’ power-packed list or the Utes’ scrappy bunch.

“They’re definitely well balanced; good combination of speed and swing away-type kids with good power,” Nicholson said. “They have a good combination of the two. You have to prepare for both, but you have to prepare for the short game.”

The short game Nicholson is talking about is the bunts and slap hitters in the lineup that “create havoc” and take the most mental preparation.

This is especially true for a team that is strongly left-handed and can sprint its way down to first while the infield scrambles, along with hitters who have plenty of power from the right side.

The Sun Devils took the victories they needed from their series against the Utes but they could use some improvement as they begin to play ranked teams like the Huskies.

There seemed to be a sluggishness after they took early leads in the games, but Nicholson thinks it was more mental than physical and that “in this point in the season we’re just trying to make sure we’re staying sharp.”

The Sun Devils will have some opportunity to rest with only two days of practice this week before the flight to Seattle on Wednesday.

This will be the third away conference series of the season for a Sun Devil team that has played only 11 of its 44 games on the road this season. The Sun Devils played extremely well in their series against California, but it’s hard to be truly comfortable on someone else’s field.

“You’d hate to say that we’re playing great on the road just because we did well in one series,” Nicholson said. “You never know. Every trip is a little different and we just have to make sure we’re ready to go.”

There is a chance this series could be quite different for the Sun Devils as junior first baseman Bethany Kemp continues to heal after sustaining an injury to her wrist after getting hit by a pitch Friday.

Kemp is participating in light practice and is able to field some easy balls but cannot swing a bat, something that could impact the lineup as Kemp is the home run leader for the Sun Devils.

Nicholson said that it will most likely come down to a “game-time decision” and is looking at several options for a possible substitute but has not come to any conclusion yet.

The Sun Devils begin their series against the Huskies on Thursday at 4 p.m.

Reach the reporter at Nkwit@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @NolanKwit