Popescue lights out on the mound; Cooper relieved after two
ASU softball played its first non-tournament game Thursday against Tennessee State, and while the bats spoke for themselves, the pitching stole the show for ASU.
Sophomore Alexis Cooper started in the circle in what was her second career start with the Sun Devils (7-0), but after struggling in the second inning, senior Mackenzie Popescue relieved her with a lights-out performance.
Cooper struggled in the second inning, walking a run in and giving up a two-RBI double. Popescue entered the game with two outs, but with runners on second and third it was a perilous situation in the game. Popescue forced a ground out from junior designated hitter Kate Morris to end the inning. “It’s really not fun for any pitcher to come out like that but we’ve got each other’s back and that’s just how we do it,” Popescue said.
Popescue got 13 straight outs, including the grounder to end the second inning. In her five innings, she gave up just one hit – a double to freshman left fielder Courtney Gearlds.
Popescue said she never thinks about the out streak, but instead just pitched with all the intensity of a closer. She is usually a starter and the other half of the dynamic pitching duo completed by senior pitcher Dallas Escobedo, but because she entered when ASU took the lead, Popescue added a fourth win on the season.
Cooper is still only a sophomore and while it was decided that she would start this game, it didn't work out Thursday.
“She’s just got to be a little more aggressive and pound the zone a little bit more,” coach Craig Nicholson said. “If she can stay in the strike zone a bit more, she can be successful for us.”
Offensively, the Sun Devils kept their run of firepower alive, scoring 10 runs with each starter ending with RBIs. Senior shortstop Cheyenne Coyle also tied her last season stolen base count at four, only the second week into the season.
Sophomore catcher Katie Girard's first home run of the season was one of three on the night for the Sun Devils.
ASU has its first real challenge of the season coming up Friday in their first game of the Littlewood Classic against reigning champion Oklahoma.
That game begins Friday at 6 p.m. with an expected sellout crowd at Farrington Stadium.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @NolanKwit