(Photo: Elaine Wilson/WCSN)
Pitching seemed like it could lead ASU to a victory over No. 5 Oregon Saturday night, but one swing of the bat changed that in the Sun Devils 5-4 loss.
Before the game Saturday former Sun Devil pitching legend Katie Burkhart was honored as the inaugural member of the Sun Devil Softball Wall of Fame and it seemed like a nice boost for Arizona State early on.
The girls in the circle dominated early in the game. Redshirt junior Kelsey Kessler avoided multiple jams in the first few innings. In the top of the second inning Oregon managed to load the bases with two outs. Junior Danica Mercado came to the plate looking to break the game open. However Kessler set her down on strikes stranding three runners on.
By the third inning, the Sun Devil ace looked confident and retired the top of the order in order, which included the two of the best hitters in the Pac-12: junior Nikki Udria and senior Koral Costa.
In the bottom of the third, the first run of the game came across and it was the Devils who struck against Oregon’s ace, freshman Megan Kleist. ASU used its small ball to put its first run on the scoreboard. The first two batters of the inning reached base and after a sacrifice bunt, senior Jennifer Soria hit a ball to the right side of the infield which was enough to bring home senior Abby Spiel. Through three innings, ASU led 1-0.
Kessler avoided another scare in the fourth inning. With two outs and the bases jammed, senior Hailey Decker flew out to the warning track in center field, only a few feet from a home run, to end the inning.
The righty said she is more focused with the bases loaded but joked that in the future, she will try not to do so almost every inning.
Finally in the fifth inning Oregon managed to take advantage of Kessler’s errors. It looked as if Kessler would be able to escape a small jam with two outs, but instead disaster struck for the Sun Devils. Senior Janelle Lindvall gathered an infield hit to load the bases. In stepped senior Geri Ann Glasco who took advantage of a pitch left up from Kessler and crushed a grand slam home run over the centerfield fence.
“Ultimately I left the ball up and you can’t do that against good hitters,” Kessler said.
Following the home run, two more runners reached base from a hit by pitch and a single. With that Kessler was pulled from the game, and in stepped last night’s starter, sophomore Dale Ryndak.
Ryndak gave up an RBI single to Decker, the first batter she faced. The damage was done and the Ducks took the commanding 5-1 lead.
ASU would not give up and that same inning, the Sun Devils scored two more runs. Freshman Taylor Becerra led the inning off with a walk and then Soria tripled to right center scoring Becerra for the second run of the game. Senior Nikki Girard stepped up to the plate and did her job with a sac fly to left field, just deep enough for Soria to tag up. Through five innings Oregon led 5-3.
“Dale did a great job coming in, especially in that situation and shutting them down,” co-head coach Letty Olivarez said.
The frame was left empty in the sixth and Ryndak cruised through the top of the seventh, so ASU had one more chance to attack in the bottom half of the seventh inning. The Sun Devils kept it interesting after bringing home a run on a throwing error by Udria, the shortstop. Still with one out ASU was in a good position to tie the game up, but Kleist was able to retire both senior Katee Aguirre and sophomore Nichole Chilson to end the game.
“I liked the fight that we showed today and I think that regardless of how the last two games have gone we have good momentum going into this last game,” Kessler said.
The series finale begins at 1 p.m. Sunday at Farrington Stadium.