(Photo: Michael Baron/WCSN)
The Sun Devils looked in control of their Saturday game from the start, cruising to an 11-0 mercy-rule victory over the Oregon State Beavers for their fourth straight win.
ASU freshman lefty Giselle Juarez retired her first six batters faced, and aside from allowing runners in scoring position in the third and fifth innings, she stayed clear of trouble. She went the distance, pitching five innings allowing four hits, two walks and striking out four in the shutout victory.
“I saw something in Giselle’s eyes today during her bullpen [session] she was locked in,” ASU senior catcher Sashel Palacios said. “She was hitting spots, being aggressive, pitching her pitches…she’s just a competitor so that’s what she’s been able to do all season long.”
“It’s been the seniors and having the coaches there too, they’ve made this transition [to ASU] really easy,” Juarez said. “Our team is a complete family and we always have each other’s backs, it helps a lot.”
ASU wasted no time putting runs on the board, as the upper classmen set the tone for the game.
Senior shortstop Chelsea Gonzales drilled a line drive over the right centerfield fence with runners on the corners and one out in the first for her team-leading eighth home run of the season. Palacios followed with a home run of her own on a high line drive to left center.
“I think we’ve done a good job of staying in our zone offensively, and we’re coming up with the big hits now,” head coach Trisha Ford said.
The back-to-back homers put the Sun Devils ahead 4-0 after an inning, in which they went through the batting order.
ASU had an uneventful second inning, but brought the power back in the third.
Sun Devil sophomore right fielder Fa Leilua hit a high fly ball toleft-centerr field that was inches from leaving the yard. The ensuing two Sun Devils had the same idea, but would not leave it short.
Junior first baseman Margaret Stahm and junior second baseman Marisa Stankiewicz hit back-to-back solo home runs with two outs in the third, putting the Sun Devils comfortably ahead 6-0.
“[Assistant coach] Katie [Richardson] has worked with both [Stahm] and [Stankiewicz] pretty hard these last two weeks,” Ford said. “And really kind of told them ‘It’s not your swing, it’s what’s going on between your ears.’ I just think they’ve done a good job of controlling [what’s going on in their head].”
The homer was Stahm’s second hit of the game, while Stankiewicz’s home run was her second in as many days and her fourth extra-base hit in that time.
Stankiewicz also had a stellar day in the field as she made plays on two tough grounders with two outs in both the third and fifth innings with runners in scoring position, which kept the Beavers off the scoreboard.
The remaining five runs ASU scored in the mercy-rule win were batted in by Palacios. Already with a solo home run on the night, Palacios singled in sophomore centerfielder Skylar McCarty after she hit a double to lead off the fourth.
“She started off a little rough [this season],” Ford said about Palacios. “I knew she was coming around, the game knows the work that you put in.”
An inning later, it was Palacios who capped her best game of the season at the plate with a walk-off grand slam, marking the second consecutive five-inning win for the Sun Devils.
“When I wasn’t doing my best, I felt like I was channeling my energy and focusing on my teammates successes,” Palacios said. “That would relieve some of the pressure that I felt on top of my shoulders, so I feel like that’s what’s really helped me regroup and start the season like this.”
The series finale will be at 1 p.m. Monday at Farrington Stadium in Tempe.