(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
In arguably the best matchup of the tournament so far, a jam packed Farrington Stadium witnessed an exhilarating finish with the Arizona State taking down Tennessee in extra innings on Friday night, 5-4.
(No. 22/20) ASU vs. (No. 8/7) Tennessee featured two of the three ranked teams in the Kajikawa Classic.
The Volunteers lost their first matchup Friday in an upset against Fresno. The hangover from the loss lasted a few innings and the Devils took advantage early on.
After a one-two-three start to the game for starting pitcher Kelsey Kessler, the ASU offense came alive. Jennifer Soria started with a double and Abby Spiel kept the rhythm rolling with a single. Katee Aguirre then got the Sun Devils on the board with a RBI bunt scoring Soria.
It wasn’t flashy, but ASU then proceeded to score two more runs in the inning off of a groundout and sacrifice fly from Chelsea Gonzalez and Sashel Palacios respectively.
Pitching dominated for the next two innings as both Kessler and senior Erin Gabriel continued to roll not allowing a run.
In the fourth inning, Kessler gave up her first runs of the season. It all started with a double to shallow right by Shaliyah Geathers. On the play, ASU right fielder Allie Butterfield went down with what looked like a leg injury, but co-head coach Letty Oliverez confirmed that the outfielder was fine after the game. Nichole Chilson replaced Butterfield.
Following the stoppage of play, Megan Greer reached base on a walk and then Abby Lockman rocketed an up in the zone fastball over the centerfield fence for her second home run of the season. Through the middle of the fourth the game was tied 3-3.
The Sun Devil bats went ice cold, accounting for no hits after the second inning. Gabriel settled in and was in total control, racking up 10 strikeouts.
Breanna Macha replaced Kessler in the top of the fifth and kept the pitching duel going, not allowing a run in regulation. Macha entered the game in a reliever roll that is a bit new for the sophomore.
“We all have to be ready at any time. There is a very team oriented aspect this year,” Macha said.
After clutch performances by both arms in the seventh inning the game headed to extra innings. Extra innings in NCAA softball the offense gets to place a runner on second base to start the inning. The rule is commonly known as the “California Rule.”
The Volunteers used this rule to their advantage. The placed runner Gregg was moved to third base after a ground out and then Greer brought the runner in with a sacrifice fly to left field.
All the pressure was on the Sun Devils and the back end of the lineup couldn’t deliver. With two outs Jennifer Soria reached base on a walk. Abby Spiel delivered an RBI single scoring the placed runner Avianna Davis.
With the game tied and Katee Aguirre at the plate the consistent Gabriel delivered an errant pitch to the plate and Soria managed to steel home for the walk off win. The Sun Devils coming out on top 5-4.
“It’s instinctual. There are situations where you don’t think and it’s just muscle memory. That was one of those moments,” Soria said.
The Sun Devils advance to 3-0 on the season with their first big win of the season. They will look to continue their hot opening start Saturday at 7:30 p.m. against East Carolina.