ASU softball holds on to win in their first game of the NCAA Regionals

ASU defeated New Mexico State 2-0 on Friday night

For the first time since 2014, an NCAA softball regional was played at Farrington Stadium on Friday night. Ranked as the number eight seed in the NCAA tournament, ASU came out and knocked off New Mexico State 2-0 in a defensive game that went down to the wire.

ASU got off to an ideal start, scoring two runs in the first inning, and that would be all they needed behind the efforts of sophomore pitcher Giselle “G” Juarez

“We do a really good job of when we put up some runs, G (Juarez) closes it out,” ASU head coach Trisha Ford said. “She has been put in a fun position that she is like, ‘Give me a run and I’ll go from there.’ ... I think our offense came up and got some runs early in the game, and I think it allowed G to throw a little more loose, and I think it allowed us to kind of breathe a little bit.”

Juarez was in cruise control through six innings, and heading into the seventh, she was just three outs away from a no-hitter. 

However, New Mexico State wasn’t going to go down without a fight. To lead off the seventh, New Mexico State junior utility player Kelsey Horton rang a loud single off of the left field wall. NMSU senior first baseman Fahren Glackin then dropped a single into right field, and the Aggies were in business.

Juarez was able to get a fly out before junior outfielder Victoria Castro picked up a walk to load the bases. A dramatic turn of events ended the game. 

In an 0-1 count, New Mexico State sophomore catcher Shelby Shultes got a pitch up in the zone and lined a ball that was destined for left field.

However, with quick reflexes, ASU junior third baseman Taylor Becerra reached out to snag the lined shot. With the Aggies runner just a couple steps off of the third base bag, Becerra then dove head first back into third base just before the base runner could get back to double off the runner and end the game.

“I was so excited,” Juarez said of the play by Becerra. “I realized we had won. I don’t have words for it besides excitement.”

Becerra not only robbed New Mexico State of possibly tying the game, but she also made a sparkling defensive play on a bunt that she snagged near her shoe tops earlier in the game.

As for the two Sun Devils runs, those came courtesy of ASU junior center fielder Morgan Howe, who had both RBIs after she rolled a ball through the right side of the infield that kicked off of the glove of the New Mexico State second baseman into shallow right field.

With Becerra and sophomore outfielder Kindra Hackbarth both on base, the two ASU speedsters were able to fly around the base paths to come home for the only two runs of the game.

Playing in her first postseason game for ASU after transferring from Fresno State, the night was one to remember for Howe.

“It kind of took me back to the beginning of the season when I was in this uniform for the first time in general,” Howe said. “I had butterflies, but they were good ones. It was just super exciting and super fun, and I really enjoy being out here with all these girls.”

Juarez ended the game with 10 strikeouts, and ASU was able to pull out a hard fought win against New Mexico State team who competed strongly for seven innings.

Nonetheless, the Aggies are now on the brink of elimination as they will take on Long Beach State in an elimination game tomorrow afternoon, while ASU will get set to take on Mississippi on the winners side of the bracket.

For the Sun Devils, the matchup with the Rebels will be a repeat of last year’s Oxford Regional when ASU fell to Mississippi 2-0 in their second game of regionals.

With a chance for payback on its home field, ASU will get set for first pitch at 2 p.m. MST.

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