( Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
Game One vs. UTEP:
New head coach Trisha Ford started off her ASU career a winner, as the Sun Devils mercied the UTEP Miners 8-0 in five innings Thursday. The game was their first of an opening day doubleheader at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe.
The difference in the game was pitching, as UTEP’s pitchers lacked any control throughout the game. Three Miners arms combined to allow seven earned runs in four and 2/3 innings pitched, walking 10 Sun Devils, hitting a batter and allowing a run to score on a wild pitch.
On the other end, Dale Ryndak pitched like the ace ASU will need her to be this season. She retired all 15 UTEP batters she faced, striking out six in the perfect five-inning effort.
“We definitely needed it,” Ryndak said about her perfect game and the team’s mercy rule victory. “We’ve trained harder this year than any other and I think that’s just the beginning of it.”
The turning point of the game was junior infielder Nichole Chilson’s third-inning grand slam. UTEP had walked seven batters to that point but had only let it amount to one run. However, Chilson’s grand slam to straightaway centerfield shot the Sun Devils out ahead, and they dominated the remainder of the contest.
“[Plate patience] has been something we’ve hit hard all winter,” Ford said. “This game’s about on-base percentage, and so you’ve got to get people on in order to score, so you get people on and you’ve got to come up with the big hit.”
Senior shortstop Chelsea Gonzales ended the game with an RBI single in the bottom of the fifth, her second hit and RBI of the game.
Game Two vs. Virginia:
The second game was much more of a competition than the first, but the Sun Devils pulled out a 4-1 victory over the Virginia Cavaliers to complete an opening day sweep.
ASU capitalized with runners on base in the first half of the ballgame, and rode a strong performance from junior pitcher Breanna Macha to start the season 2-0.
“That kid’s a bulldog,” Ford said about Macha. “If you watch [her], and how [she’s] hitting spots [she’s] fully capable.”
The Sun Devils scored four runs with 10 baserunners in the second through fourth innings. Junior second baseman Marissa Stankiewicz got the scoring started with a two-run shot in the second inning.
“We came out a little bit dead,” Stankiewicz said. “I felt like we needed to come out and prove something again.”
After the Cavaliers got on the board with a solo homerun by McKall Miller, the Sun Devils doubled their run total in the bottom of the fourth.
Nichole Chilson ripped a double high off the left field wall scoring Stankiewicz and extending ASU’s lead to two. The last insurance run came off the bat of Skyler McCarty, as an infield single to short allowed Brynley Steele to score after stealing third base.
Macha finished the night with one run allowed on five hits in a complete game. The turning point for her was getting out of a jam with two runners on base and two outs in the third inning, in which she had already allowed a run.
“She’s got to work her way out of those things,” Ford said. “And that’s how she’s going to grow, that’s how she’s going to flourish and that’s how when she gets in those situations she’s going to embrace it.”
From the fourth inning on, it was relatively smooth sailing for Macha, as she finished with a convincing performance in her first start of the season.
She was also backed up by stellar defense throughout the night.
“Making those routine plays, especially with the type of pitching we have that has down ball break, we’re going to need to play good defense,” Ford said. “It’s our expectation and I think we did a great job tonight.”
Among the highlights was a double play that got ASU out of the sixth inning, and good fielding by Chilson in the third inning that prevented the Cavs from scoring on a two-out double.
The Sun Devils will return to action Friday as the Kajikawa Classic continues. ASU will first face Purdue at 4 p.m., and then San Diego at 7.