One bad inning can spoil a well-played game and send a team into a tailspin in a hurry.
It can be the deciding factor of a tournament, or set the tone for the rest of the season — that one bad inning could mean the downfall of an entire team.
But the potential discouragement that might accompany a loss, could be also exactly what that team is looking for.
That one bad inning might be the learning experience a young team needs to set the stage for a successful season.
The No. 3 Sun Devil softball team (13-4) ended the Palm Springs Classic on Sunday with a 1-0 loss to No. 23 University of Massachusetts, and went 2-3 overall in the tournament.
“We didn’t do as well as we thought we would,” junior infielder Caylyn Carlson said. “We played a lot of really good teams, but there was always that one inning where we took baby steps backwards. If we could take that one inning back, it would have been a ball game. It shows that we are good, and even the youngsters know now that they can hang with these all-star pitchers.”
Four of the five teams the Sun Devils faced boasted top-25 rankings, proving not only to be the toughest competition they have seen this season but also an advantage that will aid the team at the end of the year.
“This is actually the first time we’ve had this great of a competition this early in the season,” Carlson said. “I think it is an advantage because it shows us what we need to work on and what we need to strive for. With such a young team, this is an eye-opener for us — there will be a lot more big steps than there will be little steps to get to where we need to go.”
Though the Sun Devils opened the tournament by falling 8-2 to No. 2 Florida on Thursday, they proved it wouldn’t be long before they came back to avenge the loss.
Freshman pitcher Hillary Bach, whose complete-game effort coupled with a home run from sophomore infielder Krista Donnenwirth and a productive fifth inning by the Sun Devils, gave ASU the advantage in their 5-4 win over No. 12 Northwestern.
But it didn’t stop there.
The Sun Devil offense scored 12 runs off of 14 hits to take a 12-4 victory over Texas on Saturday, displaying notable offensive performances at all positions.
Freshman shortstop Katelyn Boyd had a three-run triple in the third inning. A home run by Renee Welty and Carlson’s fourth home run of the season, which came in the form of a grand slam off of the first pitch of the at bat from pitcher Brittany Barnhill, helped blow the game open for ASU.
“We have goals now,” Boyd said. “We know what we need to do to play against tougher competition, so I think seeing these teams early in the season is definitely a positive. Now we know that we can compete with them.”
Sunday, junior pitcher Megan Elliott started in the circle against UM and was untouchable through four complete innings before a double down the left field line and a single put two on with one out.
A single by the Minutewomen’s No. 9 hitter Kyllie Magill brought in the runner, and gave UM the lead that would hold out to defeat the Sun Devils.
“We were a little late getting started on the hitting,” Carlson said. “The pitcher was placing the ball really well and we just didn’t make adjustments early enough in the game. Other than that, I don’t know what we could have done. Hitting is such a big part of the game. If you don’t hit, you don’t win.”
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