ASU softball returned to Farrington Stadium after being swept on the road by the Washington Huskies to open its Pac-12 conference schedule. The Sun Devils (21-8) faced New Mexico State in a doubleheader Wednesday to begin their five-game homestead.
With two wins over the visiting Aggies (10-16), the Sun Devils moved back in the right direction.
"Yeah, we definitely needed to rebound from this past weekend," head coach Trisha Ford said. "It was good for us to come out and get two W's, and obviously happy for building on to this weekend."
Game One: Sun Devils defeat New Mexico State 5-2
The Aggies struck in game one of the doubleheader. A passed ball in the second inning allowed freshman outfielder Caity Szczesny to steal home, putting New Mexico State up 1-0 early.
Junior pitcher Breanna Macha (1.61 ERA, 8-4) started in the circle for the Sun Devils and pitched six innings until junior pitcher Dale Ryndak (1.25 ERA) closed in the seventh inning.
But the Sun Devils answered in the bottom half of the frame. Senior catcher Sashel Palacios recorded her third home run of the season to even the score, 1-1.
"I think I've been just a lot more relaxed and patient (at the plate)," Palacios said. "They've just been harping getting off the back side and being aggressive to good pitches, and I think that's been something I've been working on a lot in practice and not being so hard on myself."
The Aggies went up 2-1 in the fifth inning after senior infielder Haley Nakamura singled up the middle to score sophomore center fielder Victoria Castro.
But ASU again responded, this time with two runs of their own. Freshman left fielder Brianna Wise stole home to tie the game at two.
With the bases loaded and two out, Palacios then drew a walk, bringing sophomore third baseman Taylor Becerra across the plate to give the Sun Devils their first lead of the game, 3-2.
In the sixth inning the Sun Devils found themselves in another bases loaded situation and drew two walks, bringing the game to its final tally of 5-2.
Game Two: Trio of home runs leads ASU past Aggies
When freshman starting pitcher Giselle Juarez walked her first three batters to start the second game of the Wednesday doubleheader, it looked like ASU was bound for an early let-down.
Not so fast.
A pop out and subsequent double play flipped the script out of nowhere and rapidly ended a scoreless half-inning that seemed like it would provide some fireworks.
After closing out of that jam, the Sun Devils rode a few key home runs to a second-straight victory, defeating New Mexico State in the night-cap by a final of 7-3.
"I think it's great for us to work out of those innings," Ford said. "I would appreciate us not getting into those situations. Giselle is a freshman but she's pitched a lot of games for us so there's no reason for that. So, yes, we got lucky, but I wouldn't like to live in that area."
The game’s first hit didn’t come until the bottom of the second, when ASU’s best hitter at .380, senior shortstop Chelsea Gonzales, hit a lead-off double off the centerfield wall.
Consecutive walks by the next three batters brought in a run and set up a two-out, bases-loaded situation for Becerra, who grounded out on the first pitch, keeping ASU’s lead at 1-0 heading into the third.
After going 0-for-2 in the first game, Gonzales broke out for a 3-for-4 outing in game two.
"Honestly, I came and I got extra reps, so that was good," Gonzales said. "I just talked with my coach Katie (Richardson) and she just said what I needed to work on so I just took it into the next game."
The Aggies quickly answered in the top of the third, picking up three hits in a row to bring in their first run and even the score. At that point, Juarez’s (3-3, 1.77 ERA) day was done after 2.1 innings, three hits and one earned run.
In relief, junior Dale Ryndak (6-1, 1.19 ERA) came in and promptly shut things down, but not before a difficult passed ball brought in another Aggie run, putting ASU in a 2-1 hole.
That deficit didn’t last long, as freshman infielder Randi Farricker launched a two-run rocket into dead centerfield. Gonzales followed suit in the ensuing at-bat, hammering a solo shot into left center for her fifth home run of the season, increasing the lead to 4-2.
"Excited for Randi," Ford said. "Here's a freshman coming up in a big situation and she hit that ball a country mile. You want to see your youth starting to understand it and figure things out."
From that point, Ryndak's arm kept the Sun Devils in control, although her wild throw to first in the fourth inning set up the Aggies to plate one more run on a single that followed.
Palacios came up with another two-run bomb – her second home run of the day – to build a 6-3 advantage in the fifth and give Ryndak some insurance runs – to close out the game.
"Dale was throwing gas," Ford said. "Dale came in, she had great velocity, great command of her pitches, great presence on the mound, I'm very pleased."
The Sun Devils plated one more run in the sixth with a two-out rally to pad their lead.
ASU will be back in action with its first Pac-12 home series this weekend, starting Saturday against Oregon State at 2 p.m. at Farrington Stadium.
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