The Arizona State softball team went 6-0 during the Kajikawa Classic last weekend and made it look easy, outscoring its opponents 48-3. Now, the Sun Devils shift their attention to this weekend where they will host Tennessee State on Thursday and then four games as part of the Littlewood Classic on Friday and Saturday.
Perhaps the biggest game of the nonconference season will take place on Friday when the Sun Devils play the defending national champions, the Oklahoma Sooners (Arizona State will be the road team even though the game is at Farrington Stadium).
The Sun Devil offense was on fire in the Kajikawa Classic as it scored at least seven runs in five of the six games and mercy-ruled their opponents in four of the six games.
Every Sun Devil starter batted at least .300 over the weekend except for third baseman Haley Steele, who had eight runs batted in, including six on Sunday. Shortstop Cheyenne Coyle and outfielder Alix Johnson both hit over .500 in the classic and Coyle had three home runs and 11 RBI.
Pitchers Dallas Escobedo and Mackenzie Popescue combined to give up one earned run and Escobedo held her opponents to a .063 batting average.
The Oklahoma Sooners went 57-4 last year but are a different team from last year’s squad. The Sooners lost star pitcher Keilani Ricketts to graduation. Ricketts was by far the best player in the nation, winning the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award last year for these second straight season, joining the elite company of Cat Osterman and Danielle Lawrie as the only players to win the award multiple times.
Without Ricketts, the Sooners lost one of the most dominant players to ever play college softball and they look like a changed team this year as they are off to a 3-2 start.
Oklahoma does return first baseman Lauren Chamberlain who was a finalist for the Player of the Year award won by Ricketts. Chamberlain had a .458 batting average in 2013 and tied for the national lead in home runs (30) and led the country in RBI (84). She joined Sun Devil catcher Amber Freeman on the USA Softball Team during this past summer.
Add 3B Shelby Pendley (.357, 22 HR, 73 RBI,) the Big 12 Player of the Year last year, and the Sooners have a powerful duo. The question remains, who will the Sun Devils face on the mound?
In all likelihood, it will be Kelsey Stevens, who is off to a 2-0 start this year. In 21 innings, Stevens has allowed only five runs with 24 strikeouts and has held opponents to a .211 batting average. Stevens went 15-7 last year for the Stanford Cardinal before transferring to Oklahoma.
Besides facing Oklahoma on Friday, ASU will also Southern Illinois Edwardsville, Illinois State, and San Jose State. All of the games including Tennessee State on Thursday can be seen on pac-12.com. A win over Oklahoma will open eyes around college softball and show that ASU’s No. 7 preseason ranking was too low.
You can reach Julian Lopez on Twitter @juliansdayoff22 or via email at email@example.com