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Arizona State softball sweeps Littlewood Classic

(Photo: ASU Athletics)

It was a tough day at the ballpark but the Arizona State softball team was able to remain undefeated as they defeated the Illinois State Redbirds 4-2 and the San Jose State Spartans 7-4.

The Sun Devils improved their record to 11-0 but struggled offensively in the first game and then almost let a seven run lead slip away late in the second game.

In the first game, Illinois State starting pitcher Taylor Baxter retired eleven straight batters to start the game and was aided by great defense, including a few diving catches by Redbird outfielders.

“We didn’t really play very well. I felt like we were a little flat early in the first game,” ASU head coach Craig Nicholson said. “Their pitcher did a nice job. I mean you got to give her some credit.”

The Sun Devils were finally able to get to Baxter in the fifth inning when Nikki Girard hit a two-run double with the bases loaded. Alix Johnson would give the Sun Devils the lead later in the inning with a two-run double of her own after the Sun Devils quickly reloaded the bases.

The Redbirds put some pressure on Dallas Escobedo but were only able to score in the third inning. After Kara Repp drew a walk, third basemen Sara Bradley hit a home run to left field. It was just the second home run Escobedo has given up this season.

In the second game, the Sun Devils would turn things around on offense as they scored six runs in the first three innings.

With runners on first and third in the bottom of the first inning, Johnson got caught in a rundown while attempting to steal second base. A throwing error by Spartan second baseman, Devin Caldwell, allowed Cheyenne Coyle to score from third.

A solo home run from Bethany Kemp to lead off the bottom of the second inning gave the Sun Devils a 2-0 lead.

The game was blown open in the third inning when the Sun Devils struck for four runs, all with two outs. Another error on Caldwell with the bases loaded allowed Haley Steele and Amber Freeman to score. Two more runs scored on a Nikki Girard single to right and the Sun Devils were up 6-0.

“We were just saying go back to our mentality. Zone in our strike zone and don’t swing at pitcher’s pitches,” Girard said, “That’s what we did the whole first game but that’s really what we talked about and we executed.”

Another Bethany Kemp home run in the bottom of the fifth inning made it 7-0 Sun Devils.

The Spartans got back into the game in the sixth inning as the defense behind starting pitcher Mackenzie Popescue struggled. The Sun Devils failed to convert back- to-back double plays, one because of a throwing error on Girrard, which allowed three runs to score.

The Spartans threatened again in the seventh inning when they loaded the bases with two outs. An error on Haley Steele allowed another run to score but Popescue was able to limit the damage by forcing Kryn Masutani to ground out to end the game.

“We got to close the deal,” Nicholson said, “I mean we just got to do a better job of finishing what we start. ”

The Sun Devils are off until Thursday night when they take on the Drake Bulldogs. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Farrington Stadium in Tempe.

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