The pinnacle of softball is hitting a home run. It clears the bases and electrifies the crowd. But a walk-off grand slam? And twice? That's the stuff of legends.
Well that’s what the ASU softball team did. On Feb. 15, senior first baseman Bethany Kemp sent the Sun Devils out a winner with a walk-off grand slam and on Feb. 22, senior third baseman Haley Steele did the same.
You want it, we got it. Here's @bethykemp's walk-off grand slam with @Dom_Cotroneo on the call: http://t.co/52BW4GBsIy #BoomGoesTheBethany
— Sun Devil Softball (@ASUSoftball) February 15, 2015
Lightning has struck twice!! Haley Steele walks out to 'Thunderstruck' and strikes a walk-off grand slam!! Video: http://t.co/PxM49pO2Vn
— Sun Devil Softball (@ASUSoftball) February 23, 2015
The peculiar part about both grand slams was both of ASU’s opponents intentionally walked the prior two batters.
As ASU head coach Craig Nicholson said in the first game, it was a classic game of “pick your poison” that ensued when the Sun Devils got the potential winning run at third base.
On Feb. 15, then-No. 4 Oklahoma decided to walk Steele and senior catcher Amber Freeman to set up Kemp.
With two outs, the decision was particularly baffling because the Sooners didn't need to get the lead runner out — just the batter. Steele and Freeman aren't likely to beat out an infield single, as they are frequently pinch-ran for. When you look at the career numbers, Steele and Kemp have similar production per at-bat.
Sunday's game was perhaps even stranger. You'd think with a runner at third base and one out it would be nice to set up the double play possibility. The problem is, they're rare in college softball — ASU has grounded into two in 17 games and had 10 in 59 games in 2014.
So with a runner at third base and one out, New Mexico State chose to walk senior outfielders Sierra Rodriguez and Elizabeth Caporuscio, setting up Steele and Freeman to win the game.
The other problem with the double play/ground ball to get the lead runner strategy is that most of ASU's hitters are actually fly ball hitters. The top of the order is a fly ball-hitting machine, with Nos. 1-5 in the lineup having a 1.68 fly out/ground out ratio on the season. ASU didn't need a grand slam in this scenario; it just needed a fly ball to the outfield, which would have scored junior Jennifer Soria.
Here are the players' career numbers. Take your pick.
Rodriguez: .355 batting, one home run in 62 at-bats.
Caporuscio: .308, 26 home runs in 577 at-bats.
Steele: .318 batting, 39 home runs in 588 at-bats.
Freeman: .375 batting, 46 home runs in 558 at-bats.
Kemp: .314 batting, 24 home runs in 357 at-bats.
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