(Photo: Michael Barron/WCSN)
In the previous home series for the Sun Devils, they had several hard-hit balls find the glove of a fielder, barely go foul or simply not bounce their way. However, this was far from the case in Saturday’s contest against the California Golden Bears.
ASU jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, as they mercy-ruled Cal 10-0 in five innings.
The win is ASU’s 30th overall, matching last year’s regular season total. The win also marks its 22nd consecutive regular season winning at least 30 games.
The 10-run victory is tied for the Sun Devils third largest margin of victory in a game this season, as four different players hit home runs in the winning effort.
“They’re understanding the process more, they’re understanding we’re prepping, it’s just them continuing to get used to our process,” head coach Trisha Ford said. “They’ve done a great job, top to bottom of our lineup.”
Senior shortstop Chelsea Gonzales got things started in the first, as she ripped an RBI double to center field that was inches from being a home run. Fellow senior Sashel Palacios followed with an RBI groundout, giving ASU an early advantage.
“This whole week we’ve been practicing the different pitchers,” Gonzales said. “We did good this week at practice.”
Junior starter Dale Ryndak settled in with her team in front, after getting out of the first inning with a runner in scoring position. She retired the next six batters she faced, and allowed one hit and no walks the rest of the way en route to a complete game shutout.
“She threw the changeup well today and she commanded both sides of the plate,” Ford said. “Just a much better performance all around.”
Ryndak’s dominant performance was much needed for the ASU rotation, as the Sun Devils allowed 15 runs in their previous two games combined.
The ASU bats kept the runs coming as well. Sophomore Fa Leilua hit a liner up the middle that bounced off the glove of the pitcher and found a hole in the right side of the infield, allowing two Sun Devils to score on the play.
Palacios also got a fortunate bounce in her next at-bat, as she followed a two-out, solo home run by Gonzales with one of her own. Palacios’s home run bounced off the top of the wall in left field and went over, putting ASU ahead 6-0 going into the fifth.
“(Palacios, Gonzales) and I have had quite a few conversations in the last week or two,” Ford said. “I think both of them had much better, much more selfless at-bats, team at-bats versus trying to put everything on their shoulders.”
Ford was referencing the fact that in addition to their run-scoring hits, the two seniors each drew a pair of walks as well, showing much better pitch selection in their at-bats.
The seniors accounted for much of the early scoring, but the underclassmen closed it out in the fifth.
Freshman Randi Farricker blasted a home run that cleared the scoreboard in left field to lead off the inning and bring ASU within one run of the mercy-rule win.
Gonzales and Palacios, respectively, each drew their second walk of the night before Leilua crushed a three-run home run to left-center field, putting a wrap on what was a near-perfect night for ASU softball.
“There are so many good aspects of our game that we grow with each game,” junior pitcher Dale Ryndak said. “This, this is what we live on, we don’t live on a loss.”
ASU returns to action Sunday at 3 p.m. in the series finale against Cal.