(Photo: Michael Baron/WCSN)
In a series that saw slugfests in its first two games, the rubber match on Sunday was a pitchers duel between two Utah junior pitchers and Arizona State freshman Alyssa Loza.
It was the upperclassmen that came out on top though as the No. 10 Utah Utes topped the No. 23 Arizona State Sun Devils 2-1 in Tempe.
The winning hit came in the seventh inning when Utes senior Bridget Castro hit a line drive that just cleared the left-center field fence, giving Utah the one-run lead for good.
The Sun Devils had a chance to respond in the bottom half of the inning and nearly tied it on junior Nichole Chilson’s leadoff double to right field, which was inches away from being a home run.
ASU couldn’t capitalize though – a common theme of Sunday’s game. The Sun Devils finished the afternoon 1-for-9 at the plate with runners in scoring position.
“We had a lot of walks, we left quite a few players on base earlier on in the game,” ASU head coach Trisha Ford said. “We just didn’t take advantage of it when we needed to.”
Utah junior starter Katie Donovan walked two ASU batters in the first and second innings but kept ASU from getting a hit until the fifth inning.
Loza was matching her counterpart until the fourth inning when Utah used some small ball to score the game’s first run on an RBI groundout by junior third baseman Heather Bowen.
“I thought Alyssa did just a fantastic job,” Ford said. “She did what we’ve been preaching, hit a spot and change speeds.”
Loza pitched a full seven innings, giving up two runs on three hits, walking two and striking out three.
Donovan looked like she had the edge until she allowed her first hit, a double by ASU junior Margaret Stahm. Sophomore Taylor Becerra followed with the game-tying single and was called out going to second on a questionable baserunning move.
Becerra also ended up injured on the play. She was seen with a bandage on her right ring finger after the game.
“I looked at my hand and my finger was sideways, so I just kind of got scared and put it back.” Becerra said. “I don’t really know what happened, but I have an X-ray tomorrow.”
Becerra was one of the Sun Devils robbed of a key hit during the game. She hit a hard line-drive right to the third base side which could’ve tied the game in the seventh inning with Chilson on third.
“I think every one of her outs were loud outs today,” Ford said. “Just one of those things, they didn’t fall.”
ASU senior shortstop Chelsea Gonzales hit a high fly ball to left field with a runner on first that just hooked foul, and senior catcher Sashel Palacios hit a fly ball to the warning track in center field with two runners on to end the game.
“I was expecting a lot of change ups, which I got, so when I saw the hard pitch I just took a hack on it,” Gonzales said. “Unfortunately, it went a little too foul, but it was a good pitch selection and a good hit.”
Utah junior ace Miranda Viramontes closed out the final two innings, allowing two hits and a walk while striking out two in securing the win for Utah.
“I think we put together three games in which we had a lot of grit, we had a lot of fight,” Ford said. “I don’t think anybody was comfortable until the last out, and so for me it’s them understanding and learning that, and that we have to repeat that.”
ASU’s next game will be at No. 3 Arizona at 6 p.m. Friday.