The No. 17 ASU softball team took to the road for the first time this season with a tall task at hand on Thursday afternoon.
On the first day of the Mary Nutter Classic in Cathedral City, the Sun Devils were posed with two legitimate opponents as they had to face Mississippi State and No. 4 Oklahoma.
The Bulldogs have received votes to be in the NFCA top-25 this season, while Oklahoma is the back-to-back defending NCAA National Champions.
With two games against tough opponents, ASU came away with a split.
Game One: Mississippi State
Juarez threw a complete game, and she recorded a new career-high in strikeouts with 12, while walking just one batter in Thursday’s contest.
With the win, the sophomore southpaw is now 3-1 with a 2.12 ERA, and Juarez faced just 24 batters in an efficient performance against Mississippi State.
As for the offense, the Sun Devils got the bats going early as freshman first baseman Danielle Gibson knocked in two runs in the first inning.
Sophomore shortstop Jade Gortarez and sophomore outfielder Kindra Hackbarth crossed home plate to record the first two runs of the game. That score would hold until the fourth inning when MSU sophomore catcher Mia Davidson hit a solo home run to break up Juarez’s shutout bid.
ASU added an insurance run in the top of the seventh inning courtesy of Gortarez and a Bulldog fielding error that plated ASU junior third baseman Taylor Becerra.
Mississippi State committed three errors in the game, and there were just six total hits in Thursday’s game.
Lost in the gem thrown by Juarez was the performance of Mississippi State senior pitcher Holly Ward. Ward threw a complete game for the Bulldogs while fanning seven Sun Devils, but it would not be enough as ASU went on to pick up its 10th consecutive victory.
Game Two: Oklahoma
In the second game of ASU’s doubleheader, the Sun Devils suffered just their second loss of the season by falling to Oklahoma 7-2.
The Sooners scored three runs in the first inning, and they were led by freshman utility player Jocelyn Alo, who finished Thursday night’s game with two home runs and three RBIs.
Despite giving up three runs in the first inning, ASU did not stay quiet for long.
The Sun Devils came right back and scored two runs in the bottom of the second inning after an Oklahoma error and RBIs from Becerra and ASU second baseman Marisa Stankiewicz.
While ASU sustained momentum, the Sun Devils could not come up with a shutdown inning as the Sooners answered with three runs in the top half of the third inning.
Oklahoma added one more run in the seventh inning on a squeeze play, and the Sooners continued to rely on the arm of senior pitcher Paige Parker throughout the game.
Parker finished Thursday’s game with 10 strikeouts in just over five and a third innings pitched in the circle.
With the loss, ASU is now 10-2, and the Sun Devils will get right back to action tomorrow afternoon against LIU Brooklyn.
First pitch from Cathedral City is set for Friday, Feb. 23 at 11 a.m. MST.