After another disappointing performance against the Bruins, ASU softball coach Trisha Ford continues to be at a loss for words and her players also seemingly can’t explain what has transpired recently.
“We are not playing our type of softball,” senior outfielder Morgan Howe said. “We are not playing our game right now, and it is showing.”
No. 21 ASU (25-12, 5-5 Pac-12) fell in run-rule fashion on Friday night, being defeated 10-0 in five innings against No. 1 UCLA at Farrington Stadium.
Last weekend, a downward spiral started as in-state rival then-No. 11 Arizona swept ASU in Tucson, outscoring the Sun Devils on the weekend 18-0, including 8-0 run-rule games on Friday and Saturday.
After only mustering six hits in those three matchups, ASU finished Friday's game with just two hits against Bruins freshman pitcher Megan Faraimo (12-1) to start the UCLA series.
In these past four games, there hasn’t been much energy from the Sun Devil dugout, including in Tempe against the Bruins.
“For me, it is not about the loss,” Ford said. “It is about what we look like out there. … That is not who we are. We should be playing loose and hard and fast.”
As she watched from the dugout, Ford said she wasn’t pleased with junior pitcher Samantha Mejia (12-6) or redshirt junior pitcher Cielo Meza in the circle and the discipline her team showed at the plate.
ASU had no legitimate answers against UCLA (33-1, 7-0 Pac-12) as the Bruins scored quickly against Mejia with an RBI-single from junior outfielder Bubba Nickles, and then on a wild pitch in the first inning.
Throughout the game, ASU had some chances to gain some momentum, including in the fourth inning when junior outfielder Kindra Hackbarth hit a ball deep into the outfield. But freshman outfielder Kelli Godin made a spectacular catch as she jumped into the wall to record the out.
Later in the inning, Howe tallied the first hit, a single, for ASU to end the perfect-game bid for Faraimo. After a wild throw on the next at-bat, ASU had junior infielder Jade Gortarez on second and Howe on third, but couldn’t capitalize.
“A lot of things are mental in this game,” Howe said. “Physically, we are capable, but mentally, we are just a little not checked in.”
UCLA finished the dominate performance in the fifth inning as Pack, who finished 2-for-3 with four RBIs, hit her second two-run home run against Meza.
Then, Bruins sophomore pinch hitter Malia Quarles followed with a two-run home run to push the lead to 10-0. ASU sophomore infielder DeNae Chatman added the second and final hit, a double, in the fifth inning.
Ford said that her team just isn’t playing softball, right now.
After the game, every Sun Devil player stayed on the field for a “player-only meeting,” and Howe said a main point in discussion was for the veterans to make certain everyone realizes that each player is important.
Ford also echoed Howe, saying that ASU knows the season isn't easy, especially in Pac-12 play.
“It is hard,” Ford said. “I mean, if it was easy everyone would do it. But we are not embracing the hard. … Nothing great that you do in life, though, is worth anything if it is not hard. Because then, you don’t appreciate the good.”
She added that the team isn't playing Sun Devil softball, saying that her players have put unnecessary pressure on themselves by overthinking and not playing freely.
“She just refuses to believe that this is us,” Howe said. “Because it is not.”
ASU will play again against UCLA on Saturday, April 6 at 2 p.m. MST.