(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
After an unpredictable, uneven performance in their weekend sweep over the Stanford Cardinal, No. 11 Arizona State hosts No. 8 Arizona in Farrington Stadium this weekend.
The Wildcats are coming off of a sweep of their own over Oregon State, whom ASU dropped a series against two weeks ago. All three of Arizona’s wins came by way of the mercy rule and they outscored the Beavers 36-2 over all three games.
ASU, on the other hand, sandwiched a mercy rule victory between two dramatic, come-from-behind victories to beat the Cardinal.
ASU had spots of inconsistency fielding the ball, committing seven total errors over the weekend.
“We need to do a little bit better job playing defense. Our defense has been, at times this year outstanding and at times not very good,” ASU head coach Craig Nicholson said. “I think we just need to be more consistent with everything we do.”
Arizona has been an offensive juggernaut up to this point in the season. They lead the NCAA in batting average (.361) and home runs (54), and they are averaging just under eight runs per game. The Wildcats are led by junior catcher Chelsea Goodacre’s 13 home runs, which are the most in the country.
Clearly, the Wildcat lineup will provide a challenge for senior pitchers Dallas Escobedo and Mackenzie Popescue. Both pitchers are coming off of performances that were below their normal dominance in the circle.
Arizona owns the all-time series lead over ASU 88-46-1. The Wildcats broke a six-game losing streak to ASU in Tucson last season.
“I think one of the things in this series is that really a lot of these kids grew up playing together or against each other,” Nicholson said. “There’s a lot of familiarity between the two programs. Now it just comes down to who can execute and who can control the emotions.”
Despite the obvious rivalry aspect to the game, the Sun Devils are downplaying that storyline and are looking to approach the series like any other one.
“Softball is not a game like football where you can go out and you get angry and you can go hit people,” senior outfielder Bailey Wigness said. “If you do that you’re not going to have success so you just kind of have to relax.”
In a three-game matchup between two top-tier, offensively powerful teams, any slight advantage will likely be the difference.
“Just got to play well and got to play ASU softball and nothing really special about it,” Coyle said.
You can reach Zac Pacleb on Twitter @ZacPacleb or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org