No. 7 ASU softball drops game one of top-10 showdown

The ASU softball team dropped game one to No. 3 Oregon on Friday night

In a top-10 showdown at Farrington Stadium on Friday night, the No. 7 ASU softball team dropped game one of a three-game series to No. 3 Oregon, 5-0 on a windy night in Tempe.

The loss was the first time in conference play that ASU lost the opening game of a series, and the Sun Devils came out on the wrong end of a loss where they made a couple of uncharacteristic mistakes.

“It was good at the beginning. I thought we had a lot of good energy, and then you kind of felt the lull,” ASU head coach Trisha Ford said. “I just challenged them. No matter what’s going on, we have to control our approach, control our energy and control our game plan.”

As Ford noted, the game got off to what appeared to be a good start for the Sun Devils. Following a scoreless top of the first from ASU sophomore pitcher Giselle “G” Juarez, sophomore outfielder Kindra Hackbarth roped a single back up the middle of the field to begin the game. 

Then, after a fielder’s choice, junior outfielder Morgan Howe grounded a ball up the middle of the field that was fielded cleanly by Oregon senior shortstop DJ Sanders. Sanders proceeded to flip the ball to second base, but the ball was bobbled at the last second on an exchange at the bag.

After originally being ruled safe, the umpiring crew overruled the call and called ASU sophomore shortstop Jade Gortarez out at second base, which came to the dismay of the Sun Devil faithful.

What appeared to be a promising start to a big game turned into a play that would be an omen of an all-around bizarre night for a team that has been accustomed to taking care of business on its home field. 

The game remained scoreless in a pitcher’s duel between Juarez and junior Megan Kleist through four innings, but Oregon would take control in the fifth inning and never look back.

The Ducks plated two runs after an ASU throwing error, and the miscue was one of three errors in Friday night’s game. Overall, Juarez surrendered just two earned runs of the five put up on the scoreboard, and Oregon was able to make the Sun Devils pay for the mishaps.

Oregon scored two runs in the sixth inning, and added one more in the seventh with home runs in the game coming off of the bats of freshman designated player Mary Iakopo and senior third baseman Jenna Lilley. 

“The ball just didn’t fall our way,” Juarez said. “We have to come back and play tomorrow and Sunday. If we come in and just play our game like we usually do, then we will be okay.”

ASU had just three hits in Friday’s contest, with two of them coming from Gibson. Against Kleist, the Sun Devil bats were tied up, and the senior right-hander for Oregon finished a masterful performance with 10 strikeouts in a complete game shutout.

Nonetheless, Gibson and the Sun Devils felt they could have done more, and they strayed away from their initial approach at the plate as the game wore on.

“It’s just fighting and sticking to coach’s plan,” Gibson said of hitting against Kleist. “We kind of just left it all (the plan) in the cages, and we didn’t really take it and apply it to our game."

On a night with howling wind that became an adventure for infielders and outfielders, ASU simply  wasn’t able to get the job done against an elite Oregon team that has been to Oklahoma City in recent years.

Oregon is now tied with the Sun Devils for second place in the conference standings, but ASU can still wipe away the sour taste of Friday night’s game with two more contests ahead of them this weekend.

“This group is a young group ... I think it showed a little bit tonight,” Ford said. “I challenged them (after the game). I got into their kitchens a little bit. I can’t wait to get on the field tomorrow.”

Game two between Oregon and ASU is set for tomorrow night, Saturday, April 14 at 6 p.m.

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