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Despite a two-hour delay, the Arizona State Sun Devils bounced back from their first loss of the season by defeating the Florida International Panthers 8-0 in five innings on Friday night.
Starting pitcher Mackenzie Popescue recorded her second shutout of the season, allowing only two hits in the process, and felt very good about how the team played following Thursday’s loss to South Carolina.
“I think we bounced back very well,” Popescue said after the game. “That’s the difference between a good team and a great team is it doesn’t matter what happens. It’s how you respond to it.”
Popescue received plenty of help from a shuffled lineup that scored six runs in the first two innings and secured the win in the fourth by taking advantage of some sloppy FIU pitching and defense. After struggling to score runs on Thursday night, eight different Sun Devils drove in runs against the Panthers.
“I think that’s kind of how our lineup is,” ASU head coach Craig Nicholson said. “It really can come from anywhere and tonight was a perfect example of that.”
Nicholson admitted he had wanted to make some changes earlier in the season but also did not want to mess with something that was working during the Sun Devils’ 18-game winning streak. The biggest change in the lineup was Cheyenne Coyle being moved to fifth and Alix Johnson being bumped to lead-off.
Nicholson also gave regular starters Bailey Wigness and Nikki Girard the day off and started Jennifer Soria in right field and Chelsea Gonzales at second base.
“The tricky thing with our lineup is I feel like we probably have 11 people that could easily be in the starting lineup,” Nicholson said. “It’s hard to stay in too much a rhythm if you’re not getting any at-bats.”
Nicholson does not expect to do much more tinkering with the lineup this weekend but said that it really depends on how the games play out and who gets hot.
The Sun Devils will play the Panthers again tomorrow night before wrapping up the Louisville Slugger Invitational on Sunday against Minnesota and Ball State, Nicholson’s former team.
Nicholson expects to be tested by all three teams but also said he feels the Sun Devils are still at a point where they are more worried about themselves than who they are playing.
First pitch for the rematch between the Sun Devils and the Panthers is scheduled for 7 p.m., Saturday night at Farrington Stadium.