(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
On the road for the first time this season, the No. 19 Arizona State Sun Devils will travel to Fullerton, Calif. to participate in the Judi Garman Classic.
The Sun Devils come into the tournament with a record of 15-2 on the year with both of those losses coming against ranked teams. They will play six games over four days beginning with two on Thursday.
Long Beach State
ASU opens up its slate with a morning game against the Long Beach State 49ers. The 49ers come into the tournament with a record of 8-6.
The 49ers have a very potent offense led by senior catcher Lauren MacLeod and fellow senior infielder Darian Tautalafua who hit .387 and .356 respectively. Tautalafua also leads the team in both hits and home runs.
This will be a powerful offense for the Sun Devil pitching staff to deal with. The staff is coming off of a weekend where they struggled as a unit. This matchup will prove to be a good test for ASU.
Cal State Fullerton
The host team of this tournament, the Titans are 9-6 on the year and 4-1 at home. The one ranked team they’ve faced this season was the now-No. 9 Georgia Bulldogs. In that game the Titans only lost by one and played them tough.
This team is tough and plays well on its home diamond. The Titans do not hit a lot of home runs but they know how to hit drive in runs. The Titans hit .322 as a team and seven players have 12 or more hits this season.
A different dynamic that the Titans bring to the table is stolen bases. ASU hasn’t done well throwing baserunners out and Fullerton has stolen 27 bases this season.
The Badgers, despite being one of the teams who competed in the Kajikawa Classic, this will be the first time that the Sun Devils and the Badgers face off.
Wisconsin sits at .500 through its first 14 games of the season. The Badgers have one win over the then-ranked California Golden Bears, but have not played a ranked team since.
This game is a good one for the Sun Devils pitchers to get back on track as the team hits just over .250 and strikes out a good amount.
This team lends itself to a pitcher like junior Kelsey Kessler who is more of the power arm of the three ASU pitchers.
The Sun Devil bats can also look to get going in this game as all of the Wisconsin pitchers are susceptible to the long ball, having given up 14 already this season, while factoring in that two Badger arms have opponent batting averages of over .300.
The first of two ranked teams that ASU will face this in this tournament is the Missouri Tigers. They come into this tournament with a record of 9-2.
Outside of the No. 7 Oregon Ducks, the Tigers haven’t played any other ranked opponent.
A very experience squad, Missouri returns six of its starting position players and three pitchers from a team that finished No. 12/14 in the country and won 42 games.
This will be a daunting team to face for the Sun Devil pitching staff. Mizzou currently sits at third in the country batting .398 as a team. The Tigers have five players hitting over .400 and three who have hit at least four home runs.
The Sun Devils will need all the offense they can to keep pace with the tigers. The offense has proven that it can be shut down and that can’t be the case if the Sun Devils want to win this game.
At 7-7 the Wildcats are 1-4 against the ranked teams they’ve faced this season. They are the first of two games the Sun Devils will play on the final day of the Judi Garman Classic.
The aspect of Northwestern’s game that ASU should look to exploit is the Wildcat pitching staff. The lowest ERA on the team is a 3.00 which only came in 16 innings of work. The pitcher who has racked up the most innings is senior Amy Letourneau. She has a team high 47 innings pitched and has an ERA of 4.17.
Northwestern’s offense is led by Andrea Filler and Letourneau. Filler is hitting well over .400 on the year with a full slashline of .444/4/21. To compliment her in the lineup Letourneau is the other true power bat in this lineup pacing the team with six home runs.
If the arm in the circle for ASU can control those two bats the Sun Devils should have some success in their first game of the day.
ASU rounds out the tournament with a game against No. 22/24 Baylor. The Bears are 11-3 on the season but have not played stiff competition at all. The Bears only power-five opponent this season has been Mississippi State.
The likely starter that ASU will face in the circle is senior Heather Stearns. On the year Stearns is 4-1 with a 2.12 ERA.
Offensively Sarah Smith and Lindsey Cargill spearhead the Bears offense. Smith leads the team in both home runs (four) and RBIs (21). Meanwhile Cargill tops the leaderboard in both hits and on base percentage.
Despite still being ranked, this has the makings of a very winnable game for the Sun Devils. Baylor has yet to face a team nearly as deep and as talented as ASU is, which should factor into its favor.