Softball takes on tough competition in invitational

After the shellacking of Central Connecticut State last weekend prompted an air of optimism, the No. 5 ASU softball team prepares for pesky competition in the Wilson/DeMarini Invitational.

Friday’s opponent, North Dakota State, took No. 1 Alabama to the brink in a 3–2 road loss last Saturday. Boise State, whom the Sun Devils also play on Friday, did the same in a 3–0 loss to No. 3 Florida. Knowing this, ASU (14–2) doesn’t intend to let any of this weekend’s adversaries attain momentum.

“It’s going to be a bigger test,” ASU coach Clint Myers said. “The formula hasn’t changed since we started. It is good pitching, good defense and timely hitting. Now we would like to have lots of hitting, but the timely hitting is the key. When you get opportunities you can’t squander them.”

Currently riding a 10-game winning streak, missed opportunities have been a thing of the past for the Sun Devils, who have ended seven games in mercy-rule fashion this season.

A key element has been the underclassmen’s contributions to the lineup. Freshman third baseman Haley Steele has finally settled in after struggling to get comfortable at the hot corner early on.

“The goal is to play well and to produce,” Steele said. “When you start seeing results, you start to think your practice is paying off.”

Steele is now in her second position battle with sophomore Bailey Wigness after fending off junior Danielle Muniz to collect the majority of starting time early on. Wigness, whose primary position is left field, is not only the team leader in on base percentage with a .750 mark, but also the conference leader among starters.

Her team-leading 16 walks best quantifies what the second year outfielder brings to the table as she has now cemented her spot at the top of the lineup.

However, the third base position is still there for the taking as Wigness looked a little uncomfortable in the field against CCSU.

“As far as the hitting goes, we don’t want to wake her up,” Myers said. “She is walking a lot. She is not striking out a lot. So these are all things that put the pressure on the defense.

“She is going to get some more time over (at third). Haley is doing a good job, but she’s a freshman, and she’s got to learn some things.”

Another position that looks to be up in the air is first base, where senior outfielder Annie Lockwood impressed last weekend. Of course, playing time so far has been anything but concrete. Only three players have played in every game for the Sun Devils: Lockwood, senior Katelyn Boyd and freshman Elizabeth Caporuscio.

Boyd and Lockwood’s playing time isn’t surprising, as they were expected to play a key role in any success the team had this year.

However, the emergence of Caporuscio’s potential has etched her name at the top of the centerfield depth chart as well as the cleanup hitter in the batting order.

“It feels great like I’m on top of the world,” Caporuscio said. “It just makes me feel really confident that I can go out there and do what I’m capable of doing. The more competition that’s against me, the harder I play and the more I want to win.”

First up for the Sun Devils is Wichita State on Thursday. The Shockers have yet to find their electricity, but did keep things relatively close in a 5–1 loss to No. 10 Baylor earlier this season.

The Sun Devils will be scouting as much as playing in their first game Thursday as the team also plays the Shockers on Saturday.

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