(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
After being swept at home for the first time this season the No. 22/24 Arizona State softball team will hit the road to face the unranked Utah Utes in Salt Lake City.
The Utes come into the series with a record of 24-13 and are coming off of a road series against the Golden Bears in Berkeley in which they were outscored 20-6, as well as a mid-week game on April 12 against Weber State.
Despite having a worse overall record than the Sun Devils, Utah will actually start this series ranked higher in the Pac-12 standings. The Utes currently sit at fifth in the conference while the Sun Devils find themselves at eighth.
Keys to the Game
Shut the Door
Offensive inconsistencies have plagued the Sun Devils all season. Of their 13 losses this season, 10 have come when they have had the lead after four innings. This team has been susceptible to having one or two early scoring innings and then being shut down the second and third time through the lineup.
If the Sun Devils have a lead late in this series they have to be able to keep Utah’s bats down. This responsibility will fall on the shoulders of the pitching staff, which gave up 13 runs in the fifth inning over the three games of the Washington series. Ten of those runs came in the series finale with the Sun Devils up 4-2 heading into the fifth.
Get Early Outs
Another problem that has plagued the Sun Devils this season – especially in Pac-12 play – is the big inning. Getting the leadoff hitter out will be imperative to the team’s success in this series.
Utah is a talented hitting team. It has five hitters with more than 30 hits this season and four with over 20 RBIs. The Utes offense is led by junior infielder Anissa Urtez who ranks third in the Pac-12 in hits with 52 and ranks sixth in conference with a batting average of .423. If the Utes start to put together a big inning, it can spell trouble for the Sun Devils. ASU has to avoid errors and walks which set has set its opponents up to put a crooked number on the scoreboard all season long.
The action begins on Saturday with first pitch scheduled for 3 p.m. and all three games of the series can be seen on the Pac-12 Network.