(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
Day two of the Littlewood Classic brought more success for Arizona State as the team edged two victories over Illinois State and Northern Iowa. It was a doubleheader that featured a lot of positives from the Sun Devil pitching staff.
Kelsey Kessler was given the ball in the circle for her second start of the tournament and had a similar result as she helped the Sun Devils in their 6-0 rout of Illinois State.
The Sun Devils got off to a strong start in the first inning by playing some small ball. With two outs ASU garnered a hit from Katie Aguirre. Then after two back-to-back walks, the bases were loaded, and with Nikki Girard at the plate Illinois State catcher Jordan de los Reyes attempted to throw over to third base, but an errant throw allowed Aguirre to score. Through one inning the Devils had the 1-0 lead.
There was no more scoring action until the fourth inning. The Sun Devils had become stagnant offensively and a boost of some sort seemed necessary. Sashel Palacio,s who started the game on the bench, was inserted to pitch hit with a runner on.
Palacios was able to answer and crushed a home run over the left field fence bringing in two runs for ASU.
With the score at 3-0 Kessler had some room to work with, but she didn’t seem to need it. The junior continued to mow down Red Bird batters. Through six innings in the circle, Kessler recorded 12 strikeouts and allowed only two hits.
The Devils tacked on three more runs in the bottom of the sixth inning on four hits.
To no one’s surprise Kessler came back to close the game out in the seventh inning and the dominance continued. The junior retired the side in order to finish a complete game shutout.
With the 6-0 win ASU picked up its third win in a row to start the Littlewood Classic. However, the Sun Devils were just getting started for the evening.
Due to delays from previous games the Sun Devils began their back end to the doubleheader just before 9:45 p.m. No focus was lost as Arizona State picked up its second win of the night thanks to a gritty performance.
Just like its first game ASU got on the board early. With two outs, Chelsea Gonzalez took to the plate and belted a solo shot down the left field line. At the end of one inning of play the Devils were on top 1-0.
ASU starting pitcher Breanna Macha ran into her first trouble of the game in the fourth inning; however, she was able to avoid the jam and the Panthers stranded two runners.
The pitching duel continued to the fifth inning when the Sun Devils were finally able to break it open. With two runners on Abby Spiel delivered a base knock into the outfield scoring both runners with a triple. ASU took the 3-0 lead.
Kelsey Kessler thought her night was over following a complete game shutout in ASU’s previous game, but she headed to the circle taking over for Macha in the start of the sixth inning.
“I thought I was done for the day,” Kessler said. “I was about to put on my turfs.”
The junior transfer from Kansas was looking to close out the game in the top of the seventh inning after a one, two, three sixth. With two outs Kessler gave up a home run to Macey Wolfe to put Northern Iowa on the scoreboard.
“There was a little bit of a miscommunication on the pitch call but we need to make sure that we put the nail in the coffin and end it,” co-interim head coach Letty Oliverez said.
Despite the blemish Kessler was able to finish off the game with a save and the Sun Devils won 3-1.
A late night grind-out win for ASU improved its record to 10-1 on the season. The Sun Devils remain undefeated in the Littlewood Classic.
The tournament continues Sunday as the Sun Devils take on Montana at Farrington Stadium. First pitch is tentatively at 1:30 p.m.