(Photo: Michael Baron/WCSN)
It took them four games to do it, but the Arizona State Sun Devils earned their first Pac-12 win of the season with an 8-0 mercy-rule victory over the Oregon State Beavers Saturday afternoon.
ASU got into trouble early, as junior starting pitcher Breanna Macha walked Beavers shortstop McKenna Arriola, and Shelby Weeks reached on an error by senior shortstop Chelsea Gonzales.
Macha got out of the jam though, as junior first baseman Margaret Stahm wouldn’t allow Arriola to score from third on a one-out ground ball, and Macha followed by striking out junior designated player Alysha Everett.
“It doesn’t matter what inning it is, if you get in that jam you have to make your way out of it,” Macha said. “Having confidence in my team’s hitting and their defense, I mean they played so well today.”
Macha gave up a few more extra base hits on the afternoon, but didn’t allow any more runs en route to her ninth win of the season.
“She’s been throwing well all year long,” Ford said. “We just got to keep that rolling. She threw a heck of a game today, really great focus, that’s a good offensive team and she kept them off-balance.”
The closest the Beavers got to scoring after the first inning was a leadoff triple from sophomore centerfielder Jessica Garcia in the third. However, Arriola followed by hitting a chopper to short and Gonzales threw out Garcia at home to preserve the shutout.
The Devils then showed off their power at the plate, as they got four home runs from four different players and logged an additional three extra-base hits.
ASU got the scoring started in the second, as sophomore right fielder Fa Leilua hit a high fly ball to center field that Garcia misplayed, giving Leilua a triple. Junior second baseman Marisa Stankiewicz ripped a two-out double two batters later into left-center field.
“I was just clear-minded today more than just seeing the ball,” Stankiewicz said about a game in which she had three hits, all for extra bases, including a home run. “I just [forgot] everything and just hit the ball today.”
The Sun Devils stayed hot in the third, as sophomore third baseman Taylor Becerra ran out a ground ball to short that was bobbled by Arriola to lead off the inning. Two outs later, Gonzales, who came a few feet away from a home run in the first inning, hit a bomb to straightaway center putting ASU ahead 3-0.
“You just got to reset and refocus,” head coach Trisha Ford said about Gonzales rebounding from her first-inning error. “I really think that you’re starting to see that growth in the program.”
The power display continued for ASU, as Stankiewicz followed a walk by junior first baseman Margaret Stahm with a two-run homer of her own. She hit a high and hard line drive over the fence in right-center field, extending the Sun Devil lead to 5-0.
The Beavers subsequently pulled senior left-handed starter Taylor Cotton, who finished the day allowing five runs, three earned, in 3.1 innings pitched.
ASU wasn’t any more merciful to the new pitcher though, as senior catcher Sashel Palacios and junior right fielder Brynley Steele hit back to back home runs with two outs in the fifth, making it 7-0 Sun Devils.
“The first step of that process is getting them to identify good pitches,” Ford said about the team’s hitting. “Now they’re starting to swing at those good pitches. But we had some big hits in some big situations, which I definitely agree we were lacking in the beginning of the season.”
They finished off Oregon State in the sixth, as a Stankiewicz double and a single by freshman left fielder Brianna ‘Breezy’ Wise put runners at the corners with no outs for sophomore third baseman Taylor Becerra.
Becerra hit a soft tapper in front of the plate, but pitcher Nerissa Eason and catcher Kayleen Shafer both went for the ball allowing Stankiewicz to dive past Eason’s tag to win the game on the mercy rule.
Game two of the series will take place Sunday at 7:00 p.m. at Farrington Stadium.