ASU softball defeats rival Arizona in walk-off fashion

Sun Devils down Wildcats 2-1 on walk-off double

The No. 8 ASU Sun Devils defeated No. 13 University of Arizona., 2-1, on a walk-off double on Friday night at Farrington Stadium.

With the score tied at one in the bottom of the seventh, freshman infielder Danielle Gibson looked down to first base to see her teammate, junior outfielder Morgan Howe, who had just worked the Sun Devils' first walk of the game. 

On the first pitch of the at bat, Gibson lined a double into the left center field gap to give ASU the win.

"We are going to push (when we are) at home," head coach Trisha Ford said. "I'm an aggressive coach and (Howe) is a fantastic base runner, once I saw that they fumbled the ball at the fence ... we were going to push that envelope."

Howe said when she reached first that she just focused on advancing to second.

"I saw a ball in the gap and I'm like, 'alright I'm going three' and then I saw coach Ford yelling 'go'," Howe said. "I was not prepared to go from first to four, but it is what it is and I'm happy."

Although it was her first taste of the rivalry, Gibson said she was not nervous when she stepped up to the plate because she looks at pressure situations as opportunities to succeed.

However, none of this would have been possible without sophomore pitcher Giselle Juarez's stellar performance, pitching seven innings of one-run ball while striking out 13 Wildcat batters.

The first batter of the game, Wildcat senior outfielder Ashleigh Hughes, launched a home run over the center field wall, but Juarez worked with sophomore catcher Maddi Hackbarth to calm down.

"Maddi (Hackbarth) talked to me about how my ball was breaking ... I was throwing it too hard," Juarez said. "Honestly, I think my adrenaline was going, it's rivalry week, I just calmed down and did my thing."

The only other Sun Devil offense was provided by sophomore outfielder Kindra Hackbarth who hit a home run over the right center field wall in the bottom of the fourth.

Juarez continued to look shaky after Hughes' homer in the top of the first, putting two more runners on before a sparkling defensive play from redshirt senior Marisa Stankiewicz saved a run and got the Sun Devils out of the inning. 

The Sun Devil offense was unable to make any sort of solid contact in the bottom of the first, keeping the score at 1-0.

Juarez got back on track in the second inning, setting down the Wildcats in order and only allowing one hit in the third.

Wildcat pitcher Taylor McQuillin seemed to be untouchable through the first three innings as the Sun Devils were unable to get a base runner the first time through the order.

ASU was able to break through in a big way in the bottom of the fourth as sophomore outfielder Kindra Hackbarth slapped a home run over the right center field wall to tie the game at one.

Both pitchers traded zeros in the fifth inning, keeping the score locked at one heading into the sixth.

The score remained tied at one until the bottom of the seventh when Gibson's RBI double gave the Sun Devils a 2-1 win over the Wildcats.

ASU and the Wildcats will meet for round two on Saturday at 2 p.m. PST in Tempe.


Reach the reporter at Joshua.Zaklis@asu.edu and follow @JoshZaklis on Twitter.

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