Chelsea Gonzales leads ASU softball to Territorial Cup victory
Video by Nolan Kwit | Sports Reporter
It was pandemonium on the field at Farrington Stadium as ASU softball players signed autographs after their 4-1 victory against UA that was led by freshman second baseman Chelsea Gonzales.
The Sun Devils (32-5, 6-2 Pac-12) seem to have adopted a bit of a dramatic flair as they trailed the Wildcats (28-8, 3-5 Pac-12) by one until the fifth inning when Gonzales ripped a three-run double into right field.
Gonzales was not playing second, but was instead on the bench until coach Craig Nicholson put her in to pinch hit for senior right fielder Bailey Wigness with the bases loaded.
“During the whole game I was up on the fence watching (the pitcher) just in case I did go in,” Gonzales said. “Right before I went up the girls told me what she was throwing and told me to calm down, so when I went up to bat I was just taking deep breaths, just calming myself down, slowing down my at-bat.”
Gonzales’ hit came at the perfect time after a double from junior left fielder Elizabeth Caporuscio sent senior shortstop Cheyenne Coyle sprinting from first to home to tie the game at 1-1. Gonzales’ hit would come in the same inning and be all the team needed for the win.
The Wildcats could not respond against senior Mackenzie Popescue, who pitched the entire game and allowed seven hits, but only one run across the plate, which came in the first inning.
Popescue pitched with a losing score on the board for five innings but said that even in the face of a rivalry game she was not worried in the circle.
“I know that these girls are going to come back and win it no matter what so there was no worry in my mind,” Popescue said. “That’s our story, we fight till the end and we’ve got each other’s backs.”
Struggle would not be the word to describe the first four outings for the Sun Devil offense, as they only had two hits until the fifth, but constantly had runners on base.
Redshirt senior Kenzie Fowler pitched for the Wildcats and had difficulty finding her zone as she walked 10 batters on the night and hit two by the fifth inning.
The walks created many opportunities on the night that were not capitalized on early, but senior center fielder Alix Johnson, who walked in all four of her at-bats, said that the lack of control helped them on the night.
“I feel like it was an advantage because we were so disciplined to that zone,” Johnson said. “That’s why we had so many walks today. She was struggling and we took advantage of it.”
Leaving runners on base has been a lasting pain in the Sun Devil offense that they have not yet been able to completely overcome.
Bases were loaded twice with no result in the game but Nicholson said that tenacity is just as important as execution.
“We had some tough at bats with runners in scoring position early in the game,” Nicholson said. “We talk about it as a group: keep grinding away, keep competing and that’s what we did tonight. It’s what we do.”
With the two straight wins, Nicholson and his team take the Territorial Cup home, along with bragging rights until they see each other again. The series, however, continues Sunday with coaches and players like Johnson knowing exactly what they want.
“We’re looking for the sweep. We’re not content with just winning the series, we want to get the whole shebang,” Johnson said.
The Sun Devils will play their final game of the series Sunday at 7 p.m. at Farrington Stadium.
Reach the reporter at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @NolanKwit