(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
On day four of the Kajikawa Classic, the No. 22/20 Arizona State Sun Devils swept their two games beating Portland State and the University of San Diego 7-1 and 9-1, respectively.
The Sun Devils switched up the lineup against Portland State. Freshmen Skylar McCarty and Melissa Eisen each got their first career starts at designated player and third base, respectively.
Sophomore Dale Ryndak got the start in the circle for the Sun Devils. She had yet to give up a run in her first two appearances of the year, tallying five innings of work.
Ryndak found herself in an early jam as the first two batters reached base and were subsequently moved over as senior Ashley Smith grounded into a fielder’s choice. Unphased by the two on, one out situation, Ryndak worked out her way out of the jam by striking out back-to-back Vikings to end the inning.
The Sun Devils got on the board first as junior shortstop Chelsea Gonzales launched a solo homerun to left field, the 20th in her career.
Later in the inning, the Sun Devils would load the bases, but following a strikeout and a pop up, PSU freshman starter Alyssa Burk stranded all three baserunners to end the inning.
The Vikings answered back in the top of the third. Senior Brianna Celaya hit a solo shot of her own to right which level the score at one.
The Vikings looked as though they were going to blow the game open in the inning. With runners on first and second and just one out, junior catcher Alex Flores skied a ball to center field which was tracked down and caught by a leaping Jennifer Soria.
Defense was a theme throughout the game as the Sun Devils didn’t make an error in the contest, something Ryndak appreciated.
“I know if I don’t have one of my pitches on point that day, I know I can throw and if it does get hit then one of my players can field it behind me,” she said. “I feel way more comfort in the circle.”
After the first two Sun Devil hitters reached via hit by pitches, Gonzales ripped a two-RBI double to left center making the score three to one. For the second time in as many innings, the Sun Devils left the bases loaded, ending their half of the inning.
The two teams traded zero’s until the bottom of the fifth. The Sun Devils then pushed two more runs across, widening the gap to 5-1.
In the home half of the sixth, Gonzales again stepped up ripping a two run home run to center to make the lead 7-1. The homer gave Gonzales two on the day and a total of five RBI on the day.
After six solid frames, Ryndak was relieved by junior Kelsey Kessler. Ryndak’s final line was six innings with just the one run while surrendering eight hits.
Co-interim head coach Letty Olivarez was impressed with Ryndak’s progress and improvement in the young season
“She’s definitely worked on having more of an up pitch to compliment her down to throw batters of their pace,” Olivarez said.
Kessler would throw a scoreless seventh and ASU won the first of their two games by a score of 7-1.
University of San Diego
Similar to their first game of the day, the Sun Devils drew first blood. Senior Katee Aguirre and sophomore Margaret Stahm went back-to-back to give ASU the 2-0 lead.
Sophomore Breanna Macha started in the circle for the Sun Devils and was able to work herself out of a jam in the top half of the second inning.
Macha blanked the Toreros again in the third and in the bottom half Soria continued her hot start to the season by hitting a solo shot of her own to give ASU the 3-0 lead.
The home run marked the end of night for USD starter Megan Sabbatini, but the Sun Devil offense kept rolling, picking up another run in the inning.
Both teams were held scoreless in the fourth but the Toreros loaded the bases with only one out. Macha worked her way out the jam but not after surrendering her first run of the night.
The Sun Devils got that run back and more as sophomore third baseman Brynley Steele roped a triple to the right center field back clearing the bases and making the score 8-1.
The Sun Devils went on to get the walk-off mercy rule victory by a score of 9-1 after pinch hitter Sashel Palacios was grazed by a pitch forcing in the winning run.
Great pitching from Macha and Ryndak along with timely offense fueled the Sun Devils to victory in their games and battery mate Aguirre has seen nothing but improvement this season.
“It’s night and day,” Aguirre said. “They’re attacking a lot more. They’re all a lot more confident, it’s such a difference from last year.”
The Sun Devils will conclude the Kajikawa Classic on Monday with a game against the No. 18/17 Kentucky Wildcats at 3:00 p.m.