(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
The series finale against Texas Tech resulted in the easiest win of the weekend for No. 21 Arizona State as the Sun Devils picked up their 25th win of the season by a score of 7-3.
Friday night’s victory took a walk-off for ASU, but Sunday’s runs came early and often completing the series sweep.
In the circle to start the game for Arizona State was Dale Ryndak. She looked to bounce back after giving up two runs in her save Thursday night. On the other side Dominique Alcocer took the ball for Texas Tech. Alcocer was the losing pitcher in Friday’s game.
The Sun Devils struck first in the bottom of the first inning. Chelsea Gonzales crushed a home run right at the scoreboard in left centerfield giving ASU the early 1-0 lead. It was Gonzales’ second consecutive game with a home run and her tenth of the season.
“This week all we worked on driving the ball and hitting no pop-ups,” Gonzales said. “So I think we did a really good job.”
The initial lead didn’t hold for long as the Red Raiders cleanup hitter Carli Hamilton lined a home run over the fence in centerfield tying the game 1-1.
Texas Tech backed that up in the top of the third inning with an RBI single by Kierra Miles. Ryndak was able to get out of a slight jam as the Red Raiders left two runners on base to end the inning, but gained the 2-1 lead.
The game then broke wide open in the bottom of the third inning. When the first two Sun Devils reached base with hits, Alcocer was pulled from the game and in stepped Mattison Maisel.
Texas Tech chose to intentionally walk Gonzales, to create a force out at any base, after a double steal.
“I was looking for a good pitch to hit and it set a little fire in my butt after they walked Chelsea (Gonzales),” infielder Nikki Girard said.
Girard came to the plate in a big spot with the bases loaded and delivered. The senior rocketed a grand slam over the centerfield fence.
“I was ready and pumped to be in there just to help my team any way I could,” she said.
ASU wasn’t done yet, as the next batter Nichole Chilson ripped a double down the right field line. The Red Raiders had seen enough and took out Maisel after only facing three batters. Friday’s starter Cheyene Powell was brought in to the game to pitch.
One more run was tacked on in the inning with the help of Sashel Palacios who lined the ball back up the middle and it deflected off of Powell’s glove. Chilson was able to score from third base. Through three innings the Sun Devils held the 6-2 advantage.
Ryndak’s afternoon was over after three innings and Kelsey Kessler was brought in to close out the final four innings.
“I had to have more focus in this game than even my first or second appearance (in the series),” Kessler said. “I’m not going to surprise them with anything so you have to stay tough.”
She had no issues in her first inning of work retiring the side in order.
The Sun Devil bats continued to thrive as they added on yet another run in the fourth inning. Chelsea Gonzales picked up her second RBI of the game with a blooper that dropped in shallow right centerfield scoring Abby Spiel.
Kessler carded her first blemish in the top of the sixth inning, as the heart of the Texas Tech lineup was able to pick up another run. Kierra Miles drew a walk to lead off the inning, then two batters latter Brittany Warnecke lined a pitch down the left field line and Miles scored all the way from first base, 7-3 ASU.
The Red Raiders had one last chance in the top of the seventh inning as Kessler headed back to the circle. Kessler could not be stopped as she retired the side in order and the Sun Devils won.
Kelsey Kessler picked up the win in the series sweep for Arizona State.
Pac-12 play returns next week as ASU heads to the Bay Area to take on California.