(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
For the second day in a row No. 21 Arizona State fell in a heartbreaker to its rival Arizona, 5-4.
In a mid-series matinee matchup, No. 18 ranked Arizona shined with late inning heroics from Mandie Perez flipping the script of the game in the top of the seventh inning.
After only one hit in the opener of the series Friday, ASU was looking to pick up the production offensively to take down the Wildcats, but just didn’t quite have it.
“Overall we got to get better,” coach Robert Wagner said. “We have to be able to hit better. We have to be able to run the bases better. We have to be able to manufacture more runs, and we have to make pitches.”
The Sun Devils faced Arizona’s number two pitcher in freshman Taylor McQuillin, who was last week’s Pac-12 freshman player of the week. She entered the game with a 2.56 ERA in 57 innings of work.
For ASU, Breanna Macha took to the circle in attempt to pick up her seventh win of the season.
Arizona got on the board right away. Mandie Perez led the game off with a single up the middle. After advancing to third on a sacrifice bunt, Perez was brought home by a big sacrifice fly from junior Katiyana Mauga. Perez scored easily and through one inning of play the Wildcats led 1-0.
The third inning brought lots of action and it started in favor of Arizona. Sophomore Ashleigh Hughes managed an infield hit using her speed to reach base. Then leadoff hitter Mandie Perez backed that up with a big time homerun down the right field line. Arizona took the 3-0 lead.
With some scrappy play ASU was able to put one run up in the inning as well. Sashel Palacios roped a high fastball off the wall in left field, which moved Fa Leilua from first to third base. Next the pinch runner for Palacios, Breona Peralta, stole second base successfully after catcher Lauren Young over threw her target. In return Leilua scored from third base.
Macha was able to settle down and gain control of the game for the next few innings. The sophomore flamethrower only allowed one hit from the fourth to sixth inning.
With the score 3-1 heading into the bottom of the fourth inning the Sun Devils were able to back Macha up and put some more runs on the scoreboard. They scored three runs all off of a monster homerun by Chelsea Gonzales.
“I was just trying to make an adjustment from my first at bat,” Gonzales said. “I was a little bit early so I put my toes on the line and got a good pitch.”
Gonzales’ long ball traveled way past the fence in left centerfield. ASU gained control of the game 4-3.
Both pitchers were rolling and the game entered the top of the seventh inning and Macha took the ball for a chance to close out the Wildcats. Pinch hitter Merrilee Miller drew a leadoff walk and Arizona had some life. Despite the walk Macha was able to gather the next two outs and Arizona’s last chance was Mandie Perez.
The junior came up clutch for her fourth hit of the game and it couldn’t have been more timely. Perez rocketed a homerun over the fence in centerfield taking the lead from ASU 5-4. It was her third and fourth RBI of the game.
“I give all the credit to her,” Macha said. “She’s an amazing athlete…we could have gone about it a different way, but it didn’t happen.”
ASU was given one last chance in the bottom of the seventh and Arizona inserted Danielle O’Toole into the game to pitch. O’Toole threw a complete game shutout Friday night and had the same luck in the seventh. The junior closed the game off for the win.
The Sun Devils have one more chance Sunday to avoid dropping their fifth straight.
“Arizona doesn’t sweep us, so we are going to come out hard tomorrow,” Gonzales said.
First pitch is 5:00 p.m. Sunday at Farrington Stadium.