Fueled by a dominant season-best from freshman pitcher Giselle Juarez, No. 23 ASU softball picked up the biggest win of its season on the road at No. 3 Arizona Saturday evening, winning 5-2 after having dropped the series opener the previous night.
Despite causing a bit of drama in the bottom of the first by hitting Arizona freshman catcher Dejah Mulipola in the face with a pitch, Juarez (6-4, 2.41 ERA) was the key for the Sun Devils (28-15, 7-10 Pac-12). She went for a complete game, during which time she struck out seven and allowed six hits.
While it took the Wildcats (46-5, 16-4 Pac-12) until the fourth inning to get their first hit, ASU picked up its first run – and second hit – on a solo shot to left center by sophomore outfielder Fa Leilua which opened up a 1-0 advantage.
The bats as a whole were on the weaker side for both teams, as the rivals combined to bat 12-for-53 on the day, with eight of those hits coming in the last three innings.
As the Wildcats continued to struggle at the plate – Juarez struck out the side in the second inning and struck out two more in the third – the Sun Devils continued to play some small ball to no avail. In the top of the third, a pair of sacrifice outs moved redshirt junior infielder Margaret Stahm to third, but the lead remained a single run.
In the fourth, after a pair of walks, junior outfielder Nichole Chilson added to the ASU lead, making it 4-0 with a triple that eventually became an inside-the-park home run on a throwing error by the Wildcats.
Arizona looked like it may respond after a one-out double by senior shortstop Mo Mercado, but Juarez stayed in command, retiring the next two batters with ease to retain the shutout through four. The Wildcats squandered another one-out hit in the fifth.
As for the Sun Devils, redshirt junior third baseman Marisa Stankiewicz added one more run in the top of the sixth on a solo home run to left field.
The Wildcats responded with a home run of their own in the bottom of the same inning, adding two runs off the bat of senior third baseman Katakana Mauga.
Although they were able to put runners on second and third with two outs in the seventh, the tying run was retired by Juarez to slam the door and close out the win.
The series final is set for 12 p.m. Sunday in Tucson.