No. 16 ASU softball begins season by sweeping BYU in doubleheader

The Sun Devils start the Kajikawa Classic 2-0 after scoring 14 runs in two games against the Cougars

No. 16 ASU softball swept BYU in a doubleheader in Tempe on Thursday, the first day of the Kajikawa Classic.

While ASU won game one comfortably at 7-2, it needed late-game hitting to win game two 7-5, including a three-run bottom of the seventh to force extra innings.

Game one

The Sun Devils won the first game off the arm of fifth-year senior pitcher Cielo Meza. After allowing a home run in the first inning, she surrendered only one more hit in the six innings she pitched.

"Cielo did a great job," head coach Trisha Ford said. "She kicked off some of that rust that she had, and she was really excited to be back on the mound. She had some moments she had to work out of and I thought she did a really good job of bouncing back."

Meza finished the night with two earned runs and 11 strikeouts.

The team generated a three-run lead going into the final two innings thanks to a four-run third inning, including three runs coming unearned due to an error by the Cougars that would have ended the inning.

ASU still generated runs at the plate, as junior outfielder Makenna Harper hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth to bring the score to 7-2. 

"I was really proud of Harper, how about Makenna Harper tonight," Ford said. "(She) came up big on the last home run against a changeup." 

Freshman pitcher Allison Royalty prevented any chance of a Cougar comeback, finishing the game with her first collegiate strikeout.

"I'm going to baptize her (Royalty) by fire, as I told her," Ford said. "I wanted to get her a couple of innings. She is someone who I think will be a top pitcher, and we're excited to have her."

Game two

The roles were reversed through the majority of the second game, as two of the Cougars' five runs came unearned due to two errors from the Sun Devils, helping the Cougars to take the lead into the seventh inning. 

Sophomore pitcher Lindsay Lopez earned the start for ASU, pitching 6.1 innings, allowing three earned runs and recording six strikeouts.

"I think she'll (Lopez) continue to get better," Ford said. "She's got some dynamic stuff that I'm really excited to see develop."

Royalty relieved Lopez in the top of the seventh inning and allowed a run to bring the score to 5-2. 

The Sun Devils' offense came alive right when it needed to in the bottom of the seventh inning. A single from sophomore outfielder Jazmine Hill and a walk by Harper put the Sun Devils in a position to come back with two runners on base.

After senior infielder Halle Harger struck out, fifth-year senior outfielder Kindra Hackbarth stepped up to the plate and delivered a double to score Hill and decrease the deficit to two runs. 

A sacrifice bunt from senior infielder Bella Loomis scored Harper to make it a one-run game with a runner on third. Fifth-year senior catcher Maddi Hackbarth faced a full count when she hit the ball to center field to bring her twin sister home to tie the game.

The two sisters have made plays throughout their careers at ASU, something Maddi Hackbarth said she will appreciate in their last year together.

"It's awesome, I don't really know how to put it into words," Maddi Hackbarth said. "I love her (Kindra) to death and I honestly think she's the best athlete I've ever seen play. I cherish those moments a lot."

Royalty pitched a hitless eighth inning and prevented the Cougars from scoring.

"We were so proud of her," fifth-year senior designated player Allison Tatnall said of Royalty. "That's a big moment, especially for a freshman to come in and have the pressure on you. She executed beautifully."

With one out and sophomore infielder Alynah Torres on second base in the bottom of the eighth, Tatnall ended the game with a walk-off home run to win 7-5.

"I just had to keep a quiet mind and to look for my pitch overall, which is something low," Tatnall said. "(I had to) keep a level head, not get too emotional in a moment like that and to just play my game."

Tatnall led ASU offensively in the second game, recording a hit in three of her four at-bats.

ASU will play next against Seattle on Friday at 6 p.m. MST in Tempe.

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