No. 12 ASU softball finishes 4-1 in the 2019 Kajikawa Classic

Senior outfielder Skylar McCarty provided an offensive boost, finishing 3-for-3, including a sixth-inning two-run home run

Senior outfielder Skylar McCarty felt at ease as she stepped to the plate for her final at-bat against California State University, Northridge.

Sunday afternoon, the ASU softball team started the sixth inning with a one-run advantage, searching for some insurance runs. The team found an offensive spark when junior outfielder Kindra Hackbarth hit a double and McCarty answered with a two-run home run, propelling ASU to an 8-2 win against CSUN in the Kajikawa Classic finale in Tempe. 

McCarty did a little of everything this weekend, including nervously playing catcher for the first time since being a high school freshman. McCarty finished 3-for-3 with a bunt, a single and a much-needed home run, which she didn’t hesitate to hit on the first pitch she saw on the at-bat.

“I am going to be honest, I don’t remember my at-bat,” McCarty said. “Everything was just so relaxed. I didn’t hear anything. It was just easy.”

No. 12 ASU (4-1) scored three additional runs that inning as senior outfielder Morgan Howe and junior shortstop Jade Gortarez singled and freshman designated player Yannira Acuña notched a 2-RBI double. 

In the postgame interview session, ASU softball head coach Trisha Ford spoke highly of McCarty's performance against CSUN (1-4). She said that McCarty exemplifies a team-player and provides a boost in crucial moments as a veteran, noting her sixth-inning home run.

“We needed that,” Ford said. "She is somebody who is a senior and just wants to come out every day and compete. She does a great job of coming out here and doing what is asked of her.”

In the first ining, the Sun Devils had the bases loaded but wasn't able to score. In the next inning, ASU started to be aggressive with its baserunning and continued that throughout the game.

Senior infielder Taylor Becerra scored the first run in the second inning. McCarty then hit a single, and Becerra took advantage coming into home from second. Becerra stayed aggressive in the fourth inning, hitting an infield single before advancing to third on a Hackbarth bunt. 

Hackbarth followed Becerra and proceeded to steal second, then Becerra scored on a groundout from McCarty. On the next pitch, Howe doubled to send Hackbarth home, increasing the lead to 3-0.

With a new lineup this season, Ford said ASU must be aggressive on the base path to put pressure on defenses, and she noted how pivotal that was on Sunday. ASU finished with 12 hits, including four doubles and a triple.

“It is going to continue to be big for us,” Ford said.

Mejia faced pressure as CSUN answered in the fifth inning with a double down the first baseline with the bases loaded, which scored two runs. As she did throughout the game, Mejia relied on her screwball and the defense behind her and she ended the threat with a groundout and forcing a flyball into foul territory, which McCarty corralled. 

A Fresno State transfer, Mejia threw a two-hit complete game with four strikeouts, sealing another win and finishing a successful weekend debut as a Sun Devil. This weekend felt different for her, but she and Ford were pleased with the progression.

“It was nerve-wracking because there is so much tradition behind this uniform, and just to put this uniform on, there was excitement,” Mejia said.

After a run-rule loss to Missouri on Friday night, ASU bounced back with three consecutive wins, outscoring its opponents 43-9.

Although Ford loved to see her team regain its fight, she admitted that this season started as a work in progress and the team still has a lot to do to improve.

“The thing that excites me is that we are only going to get better as the season goes on,” Ford said. “I think for us it is still about finding that pulse, finding how we put that final puzzle piece together, and it is going to take everybody.”


Reach the reporter at nahiatt@asu.edu or follow @NATE_HIATT on Twitter.

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