Since the 2015 season, the ASU pitching staff has seen a world of change – with new additions to the roster and three coaching changes, consistency was uncommon. However, this season the Sun Devil pitchers have found their stride and are continuing to build on the team's upward momentum.
After a nice freshman season with a 3.69 ERA, senior Breanna Macha struggled to find that same success as she posted a 5.13 ERA in just 84.2 innings of work her sophomore year (her highest of her colligate career).
“From sophomore to junior year, I was really creating myself as a pitcher again,” Macha said. “That is when you saw my biggest jump in ERA, I went from like a five to a two.”
Macha thinks Ford is one of the biggest reasons that she and the rest of the pitching staff have found so much success this season.
“She is a bulldog. She has that mentality that we are going to win every game,” Macha said of Ford. “I just think she knows the game, and she knows how to coach us.”
The staff, spearheaded by Macha and sophomore Giselle Juarez, has an ERA of 1.17 through 258 innings pitched – eighth in the country.
Juarez has earned multiple Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week awards and lived up to her billing as a strikeout pitcher, picking up 201 on the season.
The sophomore’s 0.90 ERA on the season places her among the nation’s best and allowed her to claim the ace spot on ASU staff.
Macha might be the Robin to Juarez’s Batman, but that doesn't take away from the senior's 2.62 ERA on the season.
A big secret to Macha and Juarez’s success this season has been their chemistry on and off the field.
"Our relationship ... has grown tremendously this past year," Macha said. "I would count her as one of my sisters."
Behind the scenes, the pitchers know that sophomore catcher Maddi Hackbarth has also been instrumental to ASU’s shut down pitching this season.
Both Macha and Juarez worked over the fall and winter to develop a rythym with the transfer from Fresno State in preparation for the season, and the road was not always smooth.
“At first … it was a little strange. She (Hackbarth) wasn’t used to my movements,” Juarez said. “(Hackbarth) has gotten a lot better with handling my movement and my spin."
For Ford, the major reason why pitching staff is having success this season is because they are motivated to achieve greatness each and every time they enter the circle.
“We are very fortunate that we have players that want to be better, that want to be great,” Ford said. “If you don’t have a staff that has that desire … then you are not going to get this improvement.”
Ford said she tries to keep the conversation open with all of her pitchers by making sure they get a say in the type of adjustments they are making during practice.
“I always tell them that it is not a dictatorship in the bullpen,” Ford said. “There are things that I want them to do, but if it doesn’t fit with them, then we have to figure out a way that it can fit with them.”
This relaxed environment has allowed the Sun Devil pitchers to flourish this year and has helped the Sun Devils become the No. 7 team in the nation.
Juarez and Macha will be back in the circle on Friday, April 13 when ASU welcomes No. 5 Oregon to Tempe for a three-game weekend set.
State Press reporter Andrew Bell contributed to this story.