ASU softball cruised past Ole Miss on Saturday afternoon to advance to Sunday's Regional Final

ASU defeated the Rebels 7-1 on Saturday

In the second day of the Tempe Regional, the ASU softball team took down the Mississippi Rebels 7-1 in front of its home crowd on a picture perfect afternoon in Tempe.

With their second win of the weekend, the Sun Devils secured their spot in Sunday’s regional final, and they will need to be beaten twice on Sunday to be knocked out of the tournament, which comes as a tall task for any team on ASU’s home field.

“Honestly, I am just very proud of their effort today,” ASU head coach Trisha Ford said of her team. “There were great at-bats in the box every inning, and we were doing some damage. I thought that we just did a tremendous job.”

In the circle, both teams sent out two crafty veterans to oppose each other’s offenses. Mississippi senior pitcher Kaitlin Lee went up against ASU senior pitcher Breanna Macha, and both teams buckled in for a big game. 

After a scoreless first inning, ASU struck first in the second inning with an RBI fielder’s choice from sophomore shortstop Jade Gortarez, and the Sun Devils then took part in a wild third inning that resulted in just one run, but was full of its fair share of drama. 

With runners on first and second and two outs, ASU junior outfielder Morgan Howe lined a bloop single over the second base bag. Mississippi sophomore second baseman Dylinn Stancil picked a one-hop line drive on the backhand, then tried to flip the ball to second for the final out of the inning.

The toss appeared to take the shortstop off of the bag, but ASU freshman infielder Bella Loomis was ruled out, and what ensued was a whole jumble of confusion.

In the meantime, ASU junior third baseman Taylor Becerra never let off the gas pedal from second base with two outs, and she crossed home plate. After some discussion, the umpiring crew ruled Loomis safe at second base.

Mississippi head coach Mike Smith came out for a long consultation with the umpiring crew, and he soon became public enemy number one in the eyes of the Sun Devil faithful. 

Nonetheless, the call would stand and ASU jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in a big game that had its fair share of close calls.

“They overturned it. I disagreed with it, and it is what it is. You can’t go back and change it,” Smith said. “We don’t have instant replay in the game, so the fans had it (the replay on ESPN) … but there is no instant replay in the game, and I think we need it. Our game is too fast and there is too much at stake, and I think we need to add that to our game.”

Nevertheless, the one moment in the second inning wasn’t the reason the Rebels fell in Saturday’s game. 

ASU broke the game open with a three-run home run in the fourth inning from sophomore outfielder Kindra Hackbarth, and redshirt senior Marisa Stankiewicz later hit a solo home run.

Backed by the stellar efforts of Macha, who threw a complete game while striking out nine Rebels, ASU cruised to the regional final, and the call in the third inning was just an afterthought.

Among other notable storylines, ASU freshman slugger Danielle Gibson exited Saturday’s game after her first at-bat. Stankiewicz slid from second base to first base on defense, and Loomis entered to play second base in the bottom of the first.

“When we take reps in practice, I take reps at second and I also take reps at first,” Stankiewicz said of the move. “It’s really nothing new and nothing different. A ground ball is a ground ball.”

Ford noted that Gibson would be ready to go on Sunday. 

With a chance to secure its spot in the NCAA Super Regionals, ASU will get ready for whoever they play on Sunday. An opponent for the final has yet to be determined, and it is pending other elimination games on Saturday night.

“We set a goal this year to host regionals and host a super (regional),” Macha said. “I just think it goes to show the work that we have put in at the beginning of the year, and it has paid off. If we take it home, we take it at home.”

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