ASU softball ends losing streak, sweeps doubleheader in Sun Devil Classic

ASU softball’s pitching propels them to back-to-back wins Friday night

After dropping three straight games in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic, the No. 17 Sun Devils returned to Tempe and picked up back-to-back wins thanks to two strong pitching performances.

Maryland

The Sun Devils cruised to an 8-0 win behind a shutout outing from senior starting pitcher Samantha Mejia.

Mejia pitched five shutout innings with five strikeouts.

In the second inning, ASU (13-5) found themselves in the perfect opportunity to put some runs on the board, as they loaded the bases with no outs. 

Unfortunately for the Sun Devils, Maryland (6-9) freshman starting pitcher Courtney Wyche induced three straight groundouts to escape the inning without giving up a run.

However, it did not take long for ASU to get on the board, as the Sun Devils erupted for eight runs in the third inning.

Senior center fielder Kindra Hackbarth got the inning started with a solo home run to center field and senior catcher Maddi Hackbarth tallied another two runs as she lined a double up the middle three batters later.

Then, in the same inning, junior first baseman Denae Chatman singled in Maddi Hackbarth. Junior third baseman Kiara Kennedy hit a three-run home run. Finally, junior second baseman Bella Loomis capped the inning off with a triple that scored Kindra Hackbarth.

ASU head coach Trisha Ford said she knows her pitchers feel more confident when the offense is putting up big numbers.

“The other thing about our pitching, why it’s so good, is because we’re putting up crooked numbers," Ford said. "You can go out there and pitch with a different level of confidence and pound the zone a little bit differently."

The Sun Devils did not put up any more runs over the course of the game en route to a run-rule finish over the Terrapins. 

Wisconsin

The second game of the doubleheader turned out to be a pitcher’s duel, as the Sun Devils defeated the Badgers 3-1.

Sun Devil redshirt senior starting pitcher Cielo Meza continued her strong start to the season, as she pitched seven innings, struck out eight and allowed only one earned run.

Meza said the team’s three-game losing streak in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic gave her some extra motivation to pitch her team to victory in tonight's game.

“The three-game losing streak was a bummer. It was a bad weekend for all of us,” Meza said. “We all brushed it aside and moved on and picked up right where we left off when we were winning.”

Meanwhile, Wisconsin (9-7) senior starting pitcher Kaitlyn Menz pitched six innings, struck out five and gave up three earned runs.

The game was quiet for the first three innings, but in the fourth inning, ASU (14-5) got on the board as Maddi Hackbarth struck with a solo home run to left field.

Maddi Hackbarth said heading into that at-bat, she was trying to avoid the changeup and find a good fastball to hit.

“I just wanted to put a good at-bat together,” Maddi Hackbarth said. “Balls fly out of this stadium very quickly and I’ve had three years to see balls fly out of here, so I know when it’s out. It definitely felt good."

Then, in the fifth inning, the Sun Devils struck again. After Kindra Hackbarth reached base on a fielder’s choice, Loomis hit a two-run home run, extending ASU’s lead to three. 

“Despite the strikeouts I still have to have confidence in myself,” Loomis said. “Honestly, it was a hit-and-run, so I was just thinking swing and it happened to go out.”

Ford believes the two games Loomis missed in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic helped her rest up and prepare for tonight’s doubleheader.

“Bella’s battling some soreness and some injuries and so we had to get her back to feeling in a good place,” Ford said. “We’ve played a lot of games in a short amount of time and sometimes that wear and tear gets people. Tonight, I think it was good for her to get back on track.”

With their backs against the wall in the seventh inning, the Badgers would not give up. Freshman third baseman Fiona Girardot launched a solo home run to left field. However, it would not be enough, as it would be the only run the Badgers could muster up as Meza calmly retired the final three batters of the game. 

“It was a good game from top to bottom," Ford said. "We played clean defense, I thought Cielo threw a heck of a game and we had some big hits when we needed them. It was one of our cleanest games we’ve had up to this point.”

ASU will look to keep this momentum going into Saturday, as the Sun Devils face off against Southern Utah and Wisconsin.


Reach the reporter at cfahrend@asu.edu and follow @chris_drop_ on Twitter.

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