Fueled by home runs from four different players, No. 21 ASU softball picked up its first Pac-12 win of the season in its conference home opener, handing the visiting Oregon State Beavers their fifth straight loss by a final of 8-0 Saturday afternoon at Farrington Stadium in Tempe.
The winning run came in the bottom of the sixth, as an RBI infield single by sophomore third baseman Taylor Becerra closed out a mercy-rule win for the Sun Devils.
"They came out to BP and they were focused, they had a lot of energy," head coach Trisha Ford said. "I kind of commented before we even started BP, I was like, 'I like where we're at.' I could feel the energy in the air. That's who we are and that's how we should play softball every day. It's just us getting them to do that every day and every pitch."
ASU (22-8, 1-3 Pac-12) junior starting pitcher Breanna Macha (9-4, 1.51 ERA) found herself in an early jam with runners on second and third and just one out in the top of the first, but escaped the frame unscathed thanks to smart plays by junior first baseman Margaret Stahm and senior shortstop Chelsea Gonzales.
From that point, Macha settled down and retired the side in order in the second inning. Backed by a strong fielding effort particularly from her infielders, Macha went for a complete-game shutout, allowing four hits while striking out three.
"She did well," Ford said of her starter. "She's thrown well all year long and, knock on wood, we've just got to keep that going, but she threw a heck of a game today, really refocused against a good offensive team and she kept them off balance."
OSU (15-12, 0-4 Pac-12) senior pitcher Taylor Cotton (6-3, 1.87 ERA) was locked in early, striking out three of the first four batters she faced.
An error by OSU centerfielder Jessica Garcia handed the Sun Devils their first runner in scoring position. In the bottom of the second, Garcia lost a fly ball in the sun off the bat of sophomore right fielder Fa Leilua, who reached third base with one out as a result.
Leilua then crossed the plate on an RBI line-drive double into left field by junior second baseman Marisa Stankiewicz, giving ASU a 1-0 lead through two innings.
"It's a huge confidence booster," Macha said of her team's defense. "If I can trust my defense 100 percent of the time I can go out there and throw my own pitches. They were hitting my changeup today, but I had my defense out making those plays behind me which is a huge boost to myself."
In the third inning, Gonzales added to her team's lead with a two-out rocket into dead centerfield, opening up a 3-0 advantage and picking up her sixth home run of the season.
With her two-run bomb, the senior continued her trend of providing offensive sparks for the Sun Devils, after providing for three hits in ASU's mid-week victory over New Mexico State.
Another home run, this time by Stankiewicz, opened up ASU's lead to 5-0 with one out in the fourth inning, as ASU continued to take advantage of its lock-down defensive effort and gradually pulled away.
"To be honest, I was just clear-minded today," said Stankiewicz, who went 3-for-3 on the day with three RBI. "More than just seeing the ball, forget everything and just hit the ball today."
Senior catcher Sashel Palacios hit a home run of her own in the fifth — the third home run from three different Sun Devils. On the ensuing at-bat, junior third baseman Brynley Steele pinch hit and joined in on the fun, opening up a 7-0 advantage with a home run into right-center.
The Sun Devils will be back in action Sunday afternoon for the second game of their three-game set with Oregon State, taking on the Beavers at 1 p.m. at Farrington Stadium.
"We can beat anybody in the nation," Macha said. "Once you hit well, you play defense well, I think this team has something special, we've always said it. We can beat anybody."