(Photo: Alli Cline)
Head Coach Craig Nicholson and his Arizona State softball team have dealt with adversity before and certainly expected to deal with it at some point this season. They just didn’t expect to be dealing with it after the first weekend of the season.
Finishing the seven-game Kajikawa Classic with a record of 4-3 with losses to San Diego, Texas and Cal State Northridge, the Sun Devils are looking like a team still trying to find itself.
Nicholson thought that his team’s performance overall was subpar given its preseason expectations.
“I think there were a lot of things that we need to do better,” Nicholson said. “Offensively there were things that we need to do better. We made too many errors. Are there definitely some positives that we got out of weekend? I think there were. But we just need to be more consistent with what we’re doing on both sides of the ball.”
The 4-3 start dropped ASU five spots in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches poll from No. 16 to No. 21. The Sun Devils still trail Oregon, UCLA, Arizona and Washington out of the five ranked Pac-12 teams.
Freshman pitchers Breanna Macha and Dale Ryndak both made their collegiate debuts in Thursday’s season opening doubleheader and pitched the majority of the weekend. They hurled a combined 40 and 2/3 innings of the 49 overall from ASU. Alexis Cooper threw the other 8 and 1/3 innings.
Macha and Ryndak didn’t overpower their opposition but did show that they have potential to be stars for ASU. They finished with a combined ERA of 3.61 and only seven walks between them.
Defense was the most glaring negative from the Kajikawa Classic for ASU, as Nicholson mentioned, with nine errors committed that led to six unearned runs. Cleaning things up on the defensive side is something that Nicholson and his coaching staff are preaching to the team in this week’s practices.
“You know, we need to come out here every day at practice and make sure that we’re getting out of it what we’re trying to get out of it,” Nicholson said.
His players are mirroring Nicholson’s displeasure with the weekend performance, most notably senior catcher Amber Freeman.
“To be honest with you, there’s not a whole lot that I liked,” Freeman said. “You know, 4-3 for this team, this program is unacceptable. We had a long talk after the second game Sunday (an 8-6 loss in eight innings to Cal State Northridge which followed a 9-4 loss to Texas) but [Coach Nicholson] just told us what we need to get better at… and we’re just trying to build on that and continue to grow.”
Arizona State will have a much different outlook on the rest of the season having suffered three early losses so early on, something that no Sun Devil softball player has experienced in the last two seasons. ASU started off the 2013 and 2014 seasons 21-0 and 18-0 respectively.
The team is looking to use the early losses as a learning experience to get better as a unit and play better moving forward. They now move on to host their second of four tournaments to start the season. The Littlewood Classic gets underway on Friday with a doubleheader against North Texas and Illinois State. ASU also will battle with Boston University and Oklahoma over the course of the weekend.