ASU softball takes game one of its NCAA Super Regional

The ASU softball team defeated South Carolina 5-2 on Friday night

It has been a common theme through four games of the postseason for ASU softball: Score early, score often and let the pitching staff do the rest.

Once again on Friday night, that was the case as ASU took down the South Carolina Gamecocks 5-2 in their first game of the NCAA Super Regionals.

ASU put up three runs in the first two innings, and the rest of the runs would just be a bonus thanks to ASU sophomore pitcher Giselle “G” Juarez.

“For me, it gives me a lot of comfort,” Juarez said of her team’s early offense. “Breathing room, and it allows me to just throw my game and focus on me, knowing that they are going to back me up with their offensive support.”

In the first inning, ASU took a 1-0 lead courtesy of a familiar source of offense —junior outfielder Morgan Howe.

Hitting in the number three spot in the batting order throughout the season, Howe has been torching opponents and stringing together quality at-bats when the lights have been the brightest in the postseason.

Howe is hitting a hallucinatory .538 through 13 at-bats in four postseason games, and she has four RBIs and two runs scored while being a steady source of offense in the heart of the Sun Devil batting order.

In the first inning of Friday’s game, and with ASU junior third baseman Taylor Becerra on first base, Howe calmly took a pitch on the outer half of the plate, and sliced it into the left center field gap, plating Becerra all the way from first.

“You go into every (postseason) game with butterflies and it’s a weird feeling, but you never get that feeling ever again,” Howe said of playing at this time of year. “This is definitely something that you are only going to experience one time … it’s awesome, and it’s great to be a part of something like this.”

As for the pitching duties, Juarez took a no-hitter into the seventh inning for the second time this postseason.

However, South Carolina senior catcher Alyssa VanDerveer lined a single back up the middle to lead off the inning, and junior left fielder Kennedy Clark then hit a two-run home run to make the final score a little closer than it might appear.

Nonetheless, Juarez was her typical self on Friday, striking out eight Gamecocks while allowing just two runs in a complete game win.

While Juarez pitched another gem, she wasn’t a one-player show, and she got some help from her defense.

To lead off the fourth inning, ASU sophomore outfielder Kindra Hackbarth made a dazzling defensive play in right field while diving head first to snag a low line drive that looked as if it was destined to hit the outfield grass. 

With a quick first step and a full head of steam, the sophomore sped to the ball and snatched it just before it could hit the ground, and it was yet another sparkling defensive play from the sophomore outfielder.

Backed by the play from Hackbarth, steady defense, bunting, and a two-run home run off of the bat of sophomore shortstop Jade Gortarez in the second inning, Juarez and the Sun Devils rolled to a win in game one of the Super Regionals.

With the win, ASU now finds themselves just one victory away from a trip to Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series.

In a postseason where ASU has gotten off to a flawless start by going 4-0, the Sun Devils will have a chance to punch their ticket to the biggest stage in college softball on their home field tomorrow night.

First pitch is set for Saturday, May 26 at 6 p.m. MST.

“This is the postseason … everybody is good, everyone is here for a reason,” Gortarez said of tomorrow’s game. “That is something that we are harping on, and we are just going to take it pitch by pitch tomorrow.”

Reach the reporter at or follow @AndrewBell7 on Twitter.

Like State Press Sports on Facebook and follow @statepressport on Twitter.

Get the best of State Press delivered straight to your inbox.