No. 22 ASU softball sweeps season-opening doubleheader in Kajikawa Classic

The Sun Devils defeated Portland State and Kansas in back-to-back games Friday night

No. 22 ASU softball swept their season-opening doubleheader as they cruised to a run-rule victory over Portland State, then turned around to hand Kansas their second loss of the season in dramatic fashion.

In the first Inning versus Portland State (1-1), ASU senior pitcher Cielo Meza got off to a strong first start of 2020 as she struck out the side.

Meza credited the strong start to her being focused on the team’s goals that were established for the season.

“Last year I felt like there was a lot of ups and downs, but this year I’m very prepared,” Meza said. “This year I have our goals set for us. Our team is all in together.”

Offensively, the Sun Devil lineup kept the strong start going as ASU (2-0) scored six runs in the first inning. 

A single up the middle from leadoff hitter, senior center fielder Kindra Hackbarth followed by three straight walks to junior second baseman Bella Loomis, senior catcher Maddi Hackbarth and junior first baseman Denae Chatman allowed Kindra to walk home for the first Sun Devil run of the 2020 season. A wild pitch two batters later gave the Sun Devils their second run on the board as Loomis cruised home.

Junior third baseman Kiara Kennedy kept the train rolling as she blasted a two-run double. Freshman right fielder Jazmine Hill followed with a two-run home run in the first at-bat of her career, bringing the game to 6-0 in the first inning. 

Kindra Hackbarth and Loomis hit back-to-back doubles in the third inning extend the lead to nine. 

A wild pitch allowed senior designated player Alli Tatnall to score the ASU's 10th run of the game in the fourth. 

Meza lost her no-hit bid with one out left in the fifth inning when Viking senior designated player Ashley Doyle singled to left field. Meza recorded the last out of the game and pitched the Sun Devils to their first win of the season in a 10-0 shutout over Portland State. 

Meza believes that part of the reason she was able to pitch so well was because of her connection with catcher Maddi Hackbarth.

“We’re pretty much unstoppable. I feel so much more comfortable with her behind the plate having seen her behind there for a year already. It’s definitely a comforting feeling.”

The second game had the potential for disaster as the Devils found themselves in an uncomfortable position to start the game against Kansas (0-2). 

Senior pitcher Samantha Mejia started the game for ASU in the circle. Mejia gave up four runs, all coming off Kansas home runs. 

In the second inning junior center fielder Brittany Jackson broke the game open for the Jayhawks with a three-run home run. 

The third inning the Sun Devil offense was kept silent. Three ASU singles loaded up the bases, but they could not get on the board as Kennedy flew out to right to end the inning. 

The Jayhawks added to their lead as senior right fielder Sam Dellinger started the fourth inning with a solo shot to left field. The Sun Devils then turned to Alabama transfer, junior pitcher Madison Preston to replace Mejia. 

It wasn’t until the fourth inning that the Sun Devil offense awoke from their four-inning slumber. Sophomore left fielder Yannira Acuña hit a solo shot and Bella Loomis knocked in Maddi Hackbarth with a double to rightfield.

The Sun Devil offense came alive once again in the sixth inning. Kindra Hackbarth and Loomis tied the game  at four after back-to-back RBI singles. Then, Maddi Hackbarth blasted a two-run go-ahead shot that gave the Sun Devils their first lead of the night. 

Maddi Hackbarth was happy she delivered when her team needed it most. Moments like these are something she has been working toward all off-season.

“Getting that home run out of the way, it kinda relieved the pressure off of myself,” Maddi Hackbarth said. “I just have to stay true to what I’m doing and have faith that all my work is going to pay off.”

But the Sun Devils would not stop there. Freshman short stop Alynah Torres added to ASU’s lead as she hit the second two-run homerun of the inning, putting the Devils up for good. 

Preston picked up the win for the Devils as she pitched four shutout innings to go along with six strikeouts in her debut. 

Arizona State head coach Trisha Ford was confident that her team would be able to pull off the 8-4 comeback victory. 

“I thought they responded well,” Ford said. “The first game was a little bit different from this last game but that’s what a good team will do, beat you in several different ways and I thought we did a great job figuring it out and putting up some runs. I think that’s Arizona State softball.”

Saturday, the Sun Devils will play another double-header at home as they take on Western Michigan (0-2) and Northwestern (1-1). 

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