(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
After wrapping up the first month of the season in tournament play, the No. 18/21 Arizona State Sun Devils will gear up to start Pac-12 play as they start the latest installment of the Territorial Cup series against the No. 18/20 Arizona Wildcats.
The Wildcats ended tournament play with a record of 18-8 with three of those losses coming against top-10 teams in Alabama and James Madison.
Their offense is lead by a quartet of very good hitters. Juniors Mo Mercado, Katiyana Mauga and Alexis Dotson, along with redshirt junior Mandie Perez each hit over .300 and have combined for a whopping 21 home runs and 82 RBI.
ASU finished its non-conference slate with a record of 21-7. While it started hot out of the gates, winning 11 out of its first 12, the team sputtered in the latter half of tournament play, finishing 6-5 in the final two tournaments.
The Sun Devils will surely be able to keep pace offensively. While the Wildcat offense is built on the bats of those four hitters, ASU’s is built more on balance. The Sun Devils have six players with four or more home runs and have seven with 10 or more RBI. Led by junior Chelsea Gonzales, who has a slash line of .347/7/25, and senior Nikki Girard who slashes .373/4/25, the strength of this Sun Devil offense is its depth.
Where this series will be won is in the circle. The Wildcats will probably turn to Danielle O’Toole multiple times throughout this series. She leads their pitching staff with an ERA of 1.81 and strikeout to walk ratio of over 6:1. In her 14 starts on the year, she’s gone the distance in nine of them.
The Sun Devils will counter with workhorse Kelsey Kessler, who’s been the most consistent pitcher all season. She finished tournament play with an ERA of exactly 2.00 and threw by far the most innings for ASU, registering over 80 already on the year. With that being said co-interim head coach Letty Olivarez has shown that she has no problem with throwing any of her pitchers into the circle, and all three will likely pitch in this series.
The first pitch of the series is set for 5 p.m Friday and can be seen on the Pac-12 Networks.