No. 17 ASU softball falls in conference opener to Oregon State

The Sun Devils drop to 20-8 on the season

ASU coach Trisha Ford wants her team to realize the challenge that comes, now, within the conference season.

Through a strugglesome start for freshman pitcher Abby Andersen, sloppy defense with multiple errors and inconsistent offense throughout the matchup, No. 17 ASU softball (20-8 overall, 0-1 Pac-12) ultimately lost 5-1 against Oregon State at Farrington Stadium in Tempe to start Pac-12 play.

“It is the (Pac-12), so everyone can hit, everyone can pitch, and everyone can play defense,” Ford said. “You have to figure out way to take advantages of opportunities. They did, and we did not. … That is what the grind of the Pac-12 is, and that is the fun part, though, not so much tonight.”

OSU (17-5, 1-0 Pac-12) found a groove early on offense, scoring three runs with an RBI-double, an RBI-single and an error, as Andersen (7-4) struggled to find a rhythm. 

Andersen didn’t allow many hits throughout the game but walks and errors added opportunities for the Beavers to score in early innings. OSU scored a run in the second and the fourth, as well, but from the fourth inning on, Ford said she thought Andersen started to find a rhythm and timing with her pitches.

Ford noted Andersen is a freshman and that was her first conference appearance. However, senior outfielder Morgan Howe continues to be impressed with her progression, talent and poise.

“I don’t think she plays like a freshman,” Howe said.

Before the final three outs, ASU never found an outlet to make a rally offensively as only senior outfielder Skylar McCarty, who finished 2-for-3 with two singles, and Howe had hits. 

Junior catcher Maddi Hackbarth hit a lead-off home run in the seventh inning, blasting the ball over the centerfield wall, to notch the only run for ASU. During her third and final at-bat, Hackbarth said she thought she saw every possible pitch from sophomore Mariah Mazon (9-3), so she just looked for a pitch to drive.

“I saw her drop (ball), I saw it well and I just went for it,” Hackbarth said.

Then, freshman pinch hitter Yannira Acuña followed with a single. Although the threat ended shortly after, Howe said after the game that is why ASU can’t be counted out.

In the postgame interview session, Ford agreed with her players that ASU has to improve defensively, be more aggressive at the plate, make adjustments throughout games and bring energy to have success.

Ford wants to see how ASU responds at 5 p.m. Saturday for game two, and McCarty said the team, especially the newcomers, need to realize how good it can be while Howe added that everyone has to embrace and love the challenge the conference season brings.

“(Everyone has) to understand that it is going to be tough,” Howe said. “That is the point in (the Pac-12), and it is a blessing and a curse, but it makes you better, especially for postseason. … This is what makes it fun.”

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