Softball closer to Pac-12 lead after sweep of Stanford

Another terrific defensive performance means another conference sweep for the No. 5 ASU softball team.

With No. 1 California dropping one game in back-to-back series, this sweep felt different, as the Sun Devils (39-5, 11-2 Pac-12) and Golden Bears (42-3, 13-2 Pac-12) are now tied in conference losses.

Sunday’s win over No. 16 Stanford put ASU closer to the top of the Pac-12 standings at exactly the middle point of the conference schedule.

“This is exactly where we want to be,” senior first baseman Annie Lockwood said. “Cal finally lost those two games we were really hoping they would lose, and now we are just right back in it with them.  (Pitching coach Chuck D’Arcy) made a comment last night that now the hunter has become the hunted.

“We’re there nipping at their tails every step of the way.”

The Golden Bears look vulnerable for the first time all season, and ASU is just beginning to hit its stride.

Defensively, the Sun Devils were impeccable, including a tremendous series from Lockwood, who still considers herself an outfielder — the position she played her first three years — rather than a first baseman.

Her biggest highlight was a double play on a ground ball to first that she tossed to senior shortstop Katelyn Boyd before getting back to the bag for the return throw.

“She was yelling at me to get back because I forgot,” Lockwood said. “I guess it’s a bigger deal than I thought it was to do a double play like that. Honestly, I wanted to get the lead runner more than anything.”

The defensive play kept senior pitcher Hillary Bach’s (19-0, 1.13 ERA) pitch count low. This allowed her to make her second straight start Sunday after pitching a 5–0 shutout against the Cardinal (32-16, 6-12 Pac-12) on Saturday night.

“That’s what it was about, the defense,” Bach said. “The last inning (Saturday), they came in clutch for the first two outs in that inning. Then I had to step up my defense for the third one.”

Bach caught a popout to end the second game. The defense of the pitchers is something coach Clint Myers pointed out as an area to improve on this year.

“As soon as the ball went up, I’m calling, ‘Hillary, Hillary, Hillary,’” Myers said. “Her freshman year, we would have been calling anybody’s name, but now she is becoming a lot more athletic … Our pitchers this year are probably fielding their position the best in my seven years.”

Of course, Bach did get run support, particularly from the long ball. Five different players hit seven home runs for ASU in the three-game series.

One of these players was freshman centerfielder Elizabeth Caporuscio, who put a 0-4 Friday night behind her with a three-hit and three-RBI Saturday.

“(Friday) night was pretty bad, I have to admit,” Caporuscio said. “I just had to let it go and know that today was a new day. I didn’t let it affect me and that was my biggest goal.”


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