ASU softball drops its first game of the Women's College World Series in an 11-6 offensive outburst

The ASU softball team lost to Oregon 11-6 in game one of the WCWS

Entering the first game of the 2018 Women’s College World Series, the ASU softball team was 41-1 when scoring first in a game.

After a two-run home run in the top of the first inning from ASU freshman infielder Denae Chatman against the No. 1 Oregon Ducks, the Sun Devils looked to have the odds in their favor behind the arm of their sophomore phenom pitcher Giselle “G” Juarez.

However, the Ducks would respond and they would do so in a hurry en route to an eventual 11-6 win against ASU, marking just the second loss all season for the Sun Devils after scoring the first run of a game.

“I think all facets of your game need to be on point if you are going to beat a team like Oregon,” ASU head coach Trisha Ford said. “I think some things just didn’t go our way ... defensively ... that’s what cost us the game. They know it (the players) ... I think the speed of the game got to us a little bit.”

As Ford noted, defense was a factor in the events that unfolded in Thursday’s game, and Oregon continued to put pressure on the Sun Devils.

ASU made two errors that led to an unearned run for Juarez, and there were a few uncharacteristic mistakes from the defense.

After Chatman’s home run for ASU in the first, the Ducks bunted three straight times, and two of the bunts resulted in infield singles. 

The third bunt moved two runners into scoring position, and that set the stage for Oregon’s NFCA First-Team All-American and senior catcher Gwen Svekis.

Svekis proceeded to bloop a low single that just cleared the outstretched glove of ASU sophomore shortstop Jade Gortarez, and that would tie the game at two.

Oregon would later extend its lead with a two-RBI triple off of the bat of freshman utility player Lauren Burke, and ASU and Oregon would continue to trade punches in a seesaw game.

The Ducks scored their sixth run courtesy of the two Sun Devil errors, but ASU then came back with a three-run home run from junior center fielder Morgan Howe to cut the lead to 6-5.

“That’s what our conference has been like all year long,” Ford said. “That was a fist fight right there ... I think a couple things go our way, and it’s a different result, but that’s what conference has been like ... It was a matter of who minimizes the mistakes and takes advantage of opportunities, and Oregon was able to come out on top of that.”

Going into Thursday’s pitching matchup between Juarez and Oregon sophomore pitcher Miranda Elish, the two pitchers had a combined 0.90 ERA and 532 strikeouts, and nobody could have expected the offensive outbursts between two pitching staffs and defenses that have been so stingy this season.

Nonetheless, the bats were on full display, and both teams showcased their offensive power.

Howe and ASU junior outfielder Skylar McCarty had two hits, and there were a combined 22 hits between both sides.

“We were really prepared. We watched film and we know what the game plan is. We have seen Elish in conference,” Howe said of the offense. “The way that the lineup is set up too, if I am not successful, then Denae is right there to back me up and vice versa ... I think in the world series, you are going to have big hitting games.”

The Ducks had five different players with multi-hit games, and their batting order was highlighted by the performance of sophomore outfielder Shannon Rhodes.

Rhodes finished the game with a home run, a double and four RBIs in a three-hit performance. Juarez was tagged with the most runs that she has given up all season, and the Ducks lethal batting order put up an impressive performance against a pitcher who has been dominant all season.

“We really just bought into what Coach White (Oregon’s head coach) told us,” Rhodes said of facing Juarez. “We bought into the plan, swinging above the ball where it's going to be, instead of under it and trying to lift. Just hit gap-to-gap line drives. You've just got to stick to the plan.”

With the loss to Oregon, ASU now faces elimination on Saturday afternoon. In a double elimination format, the Sun Devils will take on the loser of Washington and Oklahoma. First pitch of Saturday’s game is slated for 9 a.m. MST.

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