(Photo: Michael Baron/WCSN)
The No. 19 Sun Devils will be back in California for their second away match of the year that will wrap up the end of tournament season and tie a bow on the beginning of a long season.
“I’m expecting to see a little bit more grit and some comfort because they faced some of the top programs in the nation this past week and we’re going to do it again this weekend,” ASU head coach Trisha Ford said. “Obviously it’s getting us ready for conference with because we have four of the top ten.”
ASU is going into this tournament off of a 3-0 loss to Michigan and will face the same team again on the first day of the Judi Garman Classic. Michigan currently has a 9-4-1 record on the season.
“With us being able to see them again that’s our game plan to string a couple of those good at-bats together,” Ford said.
The combination of the rematch versus Michigan and ASU’s next opponent, Cal State Fullerton, will set the mental tone for the entire weekend.
“I’m excited. I think a lot of our players will tell so the same thing,” Ford said. “Being able to be in that environment facing that type of competition lets us realize how close we are.”
Fullerton’s clout with the Sun Devils is not due to its 8-8 record or its going into the tournament off of a 6-4 loss to St. John’s, but rather the fact that it is now the team of Kelsey Kessler, who pitched for ASU as an undergraduate.
“I’m just really proud at where we’ve been at with these games. With them having to go through those kinds of situations,” Ford said.
The Sun Devils will face additional trying situations as the tournament progresses as the next team on their docket is Baylor, which is currently 14-3 on the year.
Furthermore, Baylor had a 3-2 victory over Southern Illinois University Edwardsville last weekend and is riding on the momentum of a seven-game winning streak.
“We’ve played some tough competition,” Ford said. “I thought we played well against some tough competition, but we also fell short in a couple of areas.”
Then, ASU will take on South Carolina for its first contest on the closing day of the tournament. USC is on a six-game winning streak as it swept the Gamecock Invitational last week.
“We have a good balance. A lot of it has to do with them just getting lots of reps and live at-bats,” Ford said.
The Sun Devils will finish the weekend with a game against Iowa, which just endured a 6-5 loss against Georgia Tech.
Additionally, Iowa is 2-7 overall this season and all of those losses came as a part of the seven-game losing streak they are currently on.
Nonetheless, whatever the result of the tournament, Ford and her Sun Devils are focused on the details they need to improve on before the start of conference play.
“I don’t think about, at the end of the year, what my goal is or what our goal is,” Ford said. “My goal is are we getting better each day? Are we understanding the process? Are we understanding the other little nuances of the game?”