ASU softball is back home at Alberta B. Farrington Softball Stadium on Friday for a week off from Pac-12 competition as it takes on Southern Mississippi after playing six straight weeks against conference competitors.
The Sun Devils (38-7, 11-3 Pac-12) are coming off a weekend series at No. 11 Washington that had weather complications narrow the games to just a doubleheader, which included a loss that put an end to a seven-game win streak.
Now, the Sun Devils are looking to regain the momentum on their home turf against a Golden Eagles squad that has an extremely difficult week beginning with a Tuesday game against No. 7 Alabama.
The Golden Eagles (22-24, 10-11 SEC) have been struggling coming into this week and have lost seven of their last 10 games. They also have had a difficult time getting runners across the plate; three of those losses were shutouts, and two were called early due to run-rule.
This could be a difficult problem to overcome against a Sun Devil pitching staff that has stayed as unstoppable as ever into the latter parts of the season.
Despite taking a loss, both senior Sun Devil pitchers did well this past weekend with Dallas Escobedo striking out 19 and Mackenzie Popescue allowing four hits.
The Sun Devils have an offense known for power but they share a problem with the Golden Eagles in scoring runners.
The Sun Devils only scored five runs over the weekend, with three coming from dramatically timed home runs to win game one. However, ASU hit safely 14 times in game two and was only able to put two runs on the board.
There is a chance the Sun Devils could put that problem to rest this weekend with the familiarity of their home field against a starting pitching staff that averages almost four earned runs a game.
There is no doubt the Sun Devils play better on their home turf and have lost only four games this season while on the diamond at Farrington.
This is the time the Sun Devils need to work out what went wrong in the second game at Washington, as this series leads into two of the most difficult teams of the year.
The following two series are against the only teams playing better in the Pac-12: No. 2 UCLA and No. 1 Oregon. With those powerhouses on the horizon, this is the best opportunity to figure out what hasn’t been working and how to continue the excellence they’re known for looking into the postseason.
Luckily for the Sun Devils, there will most likely be no weather problems other than heat this weekend. Thankfully, the first game of the series begins after the sun has set with a starting time at 7 p.m.
Reach the reporter at Nkwit@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @NolanKwit