(Photo: Alli Cline/WCSN)
The scoreboard read 21 hits and seven errors at the end of this thriller, and for the second Sunday in a row, Arizona State wins on a walk-off grand slam.
After Jennifer Soria lead off the inning with a double, New Mexico State elected to walk two batters to intentionally load the bases in the bottom of the seventh of a tie game.
Haley Steele strode to the plate and pulled off her very best Bethany Kemp impression, ripping a line-drive homer over the fence in left to finish out the weekend with an 11- 7 ASU victory.
“I thought Haley at worst was going to hit a fly ball,” Head Coach Craig Nicholson said. “She had some good swings in this game and I just felt like she was going to get the job done.”
The pitching matchup in this one featured a pair of former high school rivals in Brianna Macha for ASU and Dallas McBride for New Mexico State. The two freshmen had faced each other multiple times throughout their four years of high school ball in Mesa, and went at it for the first time at the college level on Sunday.
The young hurlers looked like equals about half way through the contest, each surrendering four runs on five hits through four innings.
Macha was relieved by fellow freshman Dale Ryndak in the top of the fifth of a tie game. Ryndak, the winning pitcher, allowed her offense to grab the lead late by shutting out NMST in the fifth and sixth, but gave up three runs in the seventh when the Aggies tied it up and sent us to the bottom of the seventh.
McBride on the other hand, pitched all seven innings, and gave up 11 runs on 10 hits and five walks.
The Sun Devils got ahead early, securing a 1-0 lead over the Aggies in the first after an error by NMST right fielder, Misty Hoohuli allowed Elizabeth Caporuscio to come around from first.
It didn’t take long for New Mexico State to answer back, as they scored two runs on two hits and an error. Aggie pitcher Dallas McBride tied the game up with an RBI triple down the first base line, and then scored later on a fielder’s choice.
The third inning was another tough one for the freshman Macha, as she gave up two more runs on two hits, including a solo bomb over the center field wall off the bat of Corrin Green.
Still down by three in the fourth, the Sun Devils showed signs of life with runners on second and third with one out. Abby Spiel drove in her first RBI of the year on a single up the middle that brought in Breona Peralta from third to make it 4-2. Later in the same inning, Sierra Rodriguez ripped a double down the right field line that scored two and tied the game 4-4.
Amber Freeman gave Arizona State its first lead since the first inning after she launched a solo moonshot over the center field fence to make it 5-4 Sun Devils in the fifth.
Chelsea Gonzales continued to pile on the runs, touching them all in the sixth, to give her team a 7-4 lead heading to the final frame.
Ryndak had looked comfortable in the fifth and sixth, but the Aggies were able to get to her in the top of the seventh, scoring three runs and tying the game and forcing the Devils to bat in the bottom of the seventh. It was a sac-fly from McBride that pushed the tying run across, as the pitcher bailed herself out after losing the early New Mexico State lead in the fifth.
“She was not nearly as sharp today as she was against Minnesota last night,” Nicholson said, regarding Ryndak’s performance in the seventh. “She was going to be done after that inning, we can only throw those young arms so many innings.”
Steele’s game-winning slam was her fourth jack of the year, and it gave the Devils some major momentum offensively heading into next week’s tournament.
“Today we did a better job of not leaving runners on base,” Nicholson said. “I think we did a great job of taking advantage of our opportunities and having good at bats with runners on.”
19th-ranked Arizona State will face the fifth-ranked Michigan Wolverines on Friday to open up the Louisville Slugger Invitational after a four-day break.