(Photo: Elaine Wilson/WCSN)
On the first day of the Littlewood Classic the No. 17 Arizona State Sun Devils swept their two games against Michigan State and Memphis 5-2 and 11-3 respectively.
After almost a two-hour delay due to earlier games running long, junior Kelsey Kessler got the start in the circle and promptly stuck out the side to begin the game.
Errors would cost the Spartans early as two in the inning would allow junior Chelsea Gonzales to step up to the plate with a runner on.
Gonzales would take the first pitch she saw over the left center field wall to give the Sun Devils a 2-0 lead after one inning.
The Spartans would show the resilience that allowed them to stave of a mercy rule defeat at the hands of the Northern Iowa Panthers just prior to their game against ASU. Junior clean up hitter Sarah Gutknecht connected on a solo home run of her own to cut the lead in half.
After a scoreless bottom of the second, Sun Devil senior second baseman Nikki Girard launched a three run homer to give ASU the 5-1 lead.
The Spartans got a run back in their half of the fourth as a fly ball to left field was misplayed resulting in one run crossing the plate. The hit could’ve proved to be more costly had it not been for a textbook relay going 8-6-2 Jennifer Soria, to Gonzales, to Palacios to cut down the trail runner.
Sophomore Breanna Macha came on to relieve Kessler in the fifth inning. She would hold the Spartans scoreless only allowing one hit over three innings of relief.
The score would hold for the final two and a half frames and ASU would win the game by a final score of 5-2.
After a quick break to clear the field sophomore Dale Ryndak toed the rubber for the Sun Devils in game two of their double header.
Ryndak threw a scoreless top of the first and was quickly spotted a lead by the Sun Devil offense.
ASU jumped on Memphis’ junior starter Calli Irvin immediately in the home half of the first.
The Sun Devils offense would bat around, plating five runs thanks to timely hitting and a Memphis error, ultimately chasing Irvin from the game after just two-thirds of an inning.
ASU wouldn’t stop there as they would clobber reliever Adrianna Morgan for four more runs giving it a 9-0 lead after just one inning. Senior catcher Katee Aguirre single handedly drove in five for the Sun Devils.
Ryndak appreciated the early run support.
“It a takes a huge weight off my shoulders,” Ryndak said. “It takes the element of perfection away. I’m able to play my game and not have to hit spots so perfect anymore.”
After cruising through the first two innings, Ryndak found herself in trouble for the first time. The Tigers would break through for three runs in the inning on the backs of three hits and one Sun Devil error.
The inning provided a bit of a wake up call for the Sun Devils and Aguirre knew that she and the rest of the team needed to refocus.
“We all know that anything can happen here. So we don’t want to take any team lightly,” Aguirre said “There was a point where an inning started to get out of control and we all came and said let’s wake up. It’s kind of like holding each other accountable, that’s the biggest part.”
With the Tigers knocking at the door in the fourth senior right fielder Allie Butterfield tracked down a fly ball at the warning track and doubled up the runner at first base ending the inning and the threat from Memphis.
The Sun Devils finished with 11 runs on 11 hits and outside of Aguirre’s monster day with five RBI, ASU also got two RBI from both sophomore Nicole Chilson, and freshman Skylar McCarty. The final score was 11-3.
The two wins brought ASU’s record to 8-1 on the year. It’s next matchup will be another double header on Saturday against Illinois State and Northern Iowa and 6:00 p.m. and 8:15 p.m.