ASU softball defeats Ole Miss 9-0 to advance to the Super Regionals

ASU softball will be playing in the NCAA Super Regionals next weekend

For the first time in five years, the ASU softball team will be playing in an NCAA Super Regional.

The Sun Devils came out on Sunday evening, and brought out their full arsenal, scoring five runs in the first inning en route to a 9-0 blowout victory that ended in five innings.

“I am just so proud of them,” ASU head coach Trisha Ford said of her team. “We came out tonight focused. They were on a mission. Pitching, defense, offensively, all facets of our game were rolling. They looked like a well-oiled machine tonight.”

In the first inning, ASU sophomore pitcher Giselle “G” Juarez stranded a Rebel base runner at third base, and that would be about the closest Mississippi got to scoring against a Sun Devil buzzsaw that was out to kill.

ASU sophomore outfielder Kindra Hackbarth and junior third baseman Taylor Becerra set the table with back-to-back singles, and the heart of the order then took care of business.

In Sunday’s regional final, ASU freshman infielder Denae Chatman got penciled into the cleanup spot in the batting order for the first time all season, and with the leadoff runners on base, Chatman belted a three-run home run over the left center field wall, giving the Sun Devils an early 3-0 advantage.

“The more at-bats she is getting, these kids are going to start to develop, and really get comfortable,” Ford said of Chatman at the plate. “She has taken that spot and run with it. She has been pivotal for us this last month, month and a half. She has come up with some big, timely hits.”

While Chatman came up with the long ball, the Sun Devils didn’t necessarily bash the ball around the park to record their nine runs. Rather, they used small ball.

ASU freshman first baseman Danielle Gibson and sophomore shortstop Jade Gortarez both had bunt singles, sophomore catcher Maddi Hackbarth had a sacrifice fly that was one of her two RBIs, Becerra had an RBI on a fielder’s choice, and Ford and her team were relentless when it came to taking an extra 60 feet.

The Sun Devils had multiple first and third situations, and Ford elected to send runners from first as soon as an ASU runner got on base.

With stellar base running, defense and situational hitting, ASU completely wore down Mississippi, and the Rebels had no answer for the onslaught. 

“I just think that we are capable of it,” Ford said of her team’s small ball mindset. “Coach (Carly) Wynn does a great job with our bunters. They (ASU’s players) will tell you that we practice a lot of bunting and base running ... We can exploit anybody when we run with our heads up and we are putting the ball on the ground.”

As for the pitching duties, Juarez combined with senior pitcher Breanna Macha to pick up a win in a shortened game.

The tandem allowed just one run in 19 innings pitched in the regional, and they were virtually untouchable.

Sitting next to one another to address the media after the game, the duo relished in each other’s success.

“In the beginning of the year, I even said that single-handedly, Giselle Juarez can take us to a national championship,” Macha said. “I said that from day one, so I just think it goes to show the confidence that our entire pitching staff has in her.”

Juarez then responded to her senior pitcher.

“Honestly, I can’t do it without her,” Juarez said of Macha. “I mean, she has my back. I have complete faith in her and all of our staff. I love her, and I love the way our relationship has grown ... We are still competing for the same spot, and I don’t think many staffs have that to where they can compete against each other, but still want the best for each other.”

Backed by an ASU defense that made solid defensive plays all weekend, ASU coasted to the Super Regionals.

Up next, the Sun Devils will welcome another SEC opponent into Farrington Stadium when they take on South Carolina in a best of three series to see who advances to Oklahoma City.

A time and date for game one has yet to be determined. 

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