No. 13 ASU softball makes a statement with series win over No. 1 Washington

The ASU softball team took two out of three games against the Washington Huskies on Monday afternoon

The No. 13 ASU softball team made a statement to the rest of the country by capping off a series win to begin conference play with a 2-0 victory over the No. 1 Washington Huskies on Monday afternoon.

With some deja vu from Saturday’s opening game, the Sun Devils relied on the two-player wrecking crew of freshman first baseman Danielle Gibson and sophomore pitcher Giselle “G” Juarez.

In the first inning, Gibson recorded a two-out, two-RBI double, and that would be all ASU needed behind yet another electric performance from Juarez en route to taking two out of three games from the No. 1 team in the country. 

“I am so proud of my team. We were able to seal up the defense and have really good at-bats when we needed to,” Gibson said. “We put pressure on them (Washington) ... we were able to come through with a big win today.”

Coming off a deflating 7-0 loss on Sunday, a young ASU team responded with poise in the rubber match of the series with Washington.

Backed by yet another lights out performance from Juarez, ASU scraped out tough at-bats against Washington junior pitcher Taran Alvelo

Pitching in back-to-back games to look for the series win, Alvelo was coming off of a complete game, 11-strikeout performance against the Sun Devils on Sunday.

With a new day in store, the Sun Devils grinded and were able to take the win, with Juarez throwing a three-hit gem to seal the series win against Washington. 

“I know they had seen me three or four times in the previous game,” Juarez said. “I made adjustments quicker than they did, so I think that was the biggest thing when facing them the second time (in the series).”

Going into the sixth inning, the Washington bats had been tied up by Juarez. However, in the sixth, Washington senior outfielder Trysten Melhart led off the inning with a leadoff single.

What ensued was the consequential turning point in the late innings of the game. In a two-strike count, Washington head coach Heather Tarr elected to take a gamble to try and jump start Washington’s offense.

In a high-risk, high-reward situation against a strikeout pitcher, Tarr elected to send Melhart from first base. 

With Washington center fielder Kelly Burdick in the box, Juarez proceeded to fan Burdick, and then ASU sophomore catcher Maddi Hackbarth delivered a laser from her knees with a tag applied by sophomore shortstop Jade Gortarez

With the throw on time, Gortarez applied the tag for the out, and all of the momentum turned back to the Sun Devil dugout with the double play.

“We knew that they had speed and going for it in this game, I had to be ready every pitch when they got on base,” Hackbarth said. “It was a huge momentum-shifter for us late in the game.”

While Hackbarth shot down the runners on the base paths, there was another Sun Devil who flashed the leather to help the ASU defense.

Along with a double at the plate, ASU junior third baseman Taylor Becerra covered some ground in the fourth inning.

On a foul ball in front of the ASU dugout, Becerra took off from her position at third base with a full head of steam and took on the netting in front of the Sun Devil dugout.

Becerra leaped and snagged the ball just before it dropped onto the ASU bench, and the web gem sent the Sun Devil faithful into a frenzy.

“I don’t really get many pop-flies at third base, but when I do at practice, it looks just like that,” Becerra said of taking on the dugout. “We practice that (play) all of the time, but to have it happen in a huge game like this, that was really cool.”

Backed by a productive first inning, scrappy at-bats and stellar pitching and defense, ASU moved to 24-4 on the season, and they handed Washington its first two losses of the season.

ASU can expect to be in the top-10 of the next NFCA coaches poll, and the weekend served as a statement to not only the Pac-12, but to the rest of the country.

With a lot of excitement around the program and an impressive start to its 2018 campaign, ASU certainly turned some heads over the first three games of conference play.

“We have a great team. We all love each other and we play for each other,” Juarez said. “I think that is one of the biggest things this year is we love playing behind each other … We know we have something special here.”

Up next, ASU will go on the road to take on No. 16 Cal on Mar. 23-25.


Reach the reporter at atbell1@asu.edu or follow @AndrewBell7 on Twitter.

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