No. 14 ASU softball dominates in win over South Dakota

The ASU softball team defeated South Dakota 8-0 on Tuesday night

Over the last two games, the No. 14 ASU softball team has not surrendered a run, and that trend continued on Tuesday night with an 8-0 walloping in five innings against South Dakota.

ASU scored three runs in the first inning, one in the second, three in the fourth, and one more in the fifth inning to complete its third consecutive shutout victory.

The pitching tandem of sophomore Giselle “G” Juarez and senior Breanna Macha combined to pitch five scoreless innings, and Juarez was electric in the circle once again, recording double-digit strikeout totals for the second game in a row.

Juarez fanned 10 Coyotes en route to her sixth win of the season, moving her record to 6-1.

“It was kind of just focusing on every pitch and taking it pitch-by-pitch,” Juarez said of her dominant performance. “I think that is the biggest thing when it comes to rolling (in games).”

Throughout the game, Juarez was faced with a couple of jams, but she was able to maneuver around the runners on base. 

In the first inning, Juarez walked the first hitter she faced, and South Dakota junior first baseman Jamie Holscher followed the walk with a one-out single through the right side of the infield.

With the possibility of an early strike from the Coyotes, Juarez responded, delivering back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning. 

Later in the game, Juarez would be struck with more adversity when she was struck with a line drive that hit her right arm.

After a visit from the coaching staff and trainers, the sophomore responded with poise, retiring the next three hitters that she faced with traffic on the base paths.

“She’s a heck of a pitcher,” Macha said of Juarez. “You can really see the confidence that she has grown over the past two years that she has been here. We have gotten a lot closer this year, and it’s really exciting to see how much she has really grown.”

As for the offensive production, the Sun Devils struck early and often as sophomore shortstop Jade Gortarez blasted a two-run home run in the first inning. 

Following Gortarez’s two-run bomb, freshman first baseman Danielle Gibson stepped up in the clean up spot in the ASU order, and she crushed a solo shot to right center field that gave the Sun Devils an early 3-0 lead.

Gibson finished the game with two home runs as she added another big fly in the fourth inning, and that gave her three RBI’s on the day. The second home run was Gibson’s sixth long ball of the season, giving her sole possession of the team lead in home runs early in the season.

“It’s really the same swing out of everything. It’s just making sure that you are on time,” Gibson said of her power. “It’s just getting your foot down … coach always says, ‘It’s not rocket science, just get your foot down and get a good pitch.’”

Among others, junior outfielder Skylar McCarty started in center field on Tuesday night, and she finished the game going 2-3 with a triple while playing solid defense in the outfield.

Sophomore right fielder Kindra Hackbarth also picked up a triple when she turned on her after-burners in the fourth inning.

With South Dakota center fielder Camille Fowler shaded toward left center field, Hackbarth roped a line drive right back up the middle that ended up rolling to the wall. 

Sprinting out of the box, Hackbarth rounded first base and showed off her track speed, sliding easily into third base before a throw even got near the bag.

“Honestly, I was rounding second and I looked at coach,” Hackbarth said. “I just took off and it was early, so I had time to stop or go (once she touched second) … she gave me the yes (to go) and I just took it.”

With the win, ASU improved to 17-2 overall on the same day that they moved up to No. 14 in the country in the latest NFCA coaches poll.

ASU will be right back to action for another spring break non-conference game, when the Sun Devils host Georgetown Wednesday night at Farrington Stadium. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. MST.

“We can keep them in the same routine. We can sleep in our own beds and we aren’t traveling,” said ASU head coach Trisha Ford of playing home games over spring break. “Their families are here, and it’s one of the best perks of playing at ASU ... for us, it’s huge.”

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