(Photo: Alli Cline/WCSN)
Head Coach Craig Nicholson has had a message for his team all season: come out every day and try to get better individually and as a team. He saw the positive and negative part of that message on Saturday afternoon as Arizona State (21-10, 2-2) fell to the California Golden Bears (23-5, 2-3) 6-5 at Farrington Stadium.
The Sun Devils seemed to be in control through six innings against the Golden Bears, as freshman starter Dale Ryndak had only given up two runs, one of which was unearned and allowed only seven hits. The wheels fell off however, in the top of the seventh as the first four hitters of the inning for Cal scored, and turned a 4-2 Sun Devil lead into a 6-4 Sun Devil deficit.
Nicholson said he saw a good effort from his team, but just didn’t get the 50/50 plays that usually decide a softball game.
“I really felt like we had pretty good at-bats today for the most part,” Nicholson said. “There were a couple when we had opportunities to score that we let get away from us.”
Despite going down 6-4 in the top of the seventh, the Sun Devils showed tremendous resilience, getting the first two runners of the inning on for two-time All-American Amber Freeman, and eventually scoring a run on a Haley Steele RBI single to cut Cal’s lead to one.
Nicholson said he was very pleased with his team’s demeanor and the fight that they showed.
“The best thing in that game, even though you come away with a loss, is the fact that after we give up four runs, we don’t hang our heads and we go right back to work,” Nicholson said. “We love that part about this team.”
The game continued with the trend of Nicholson using Ryndak and freshman counterpart Breanna Macha as the pitching tandem, with one closing out the other’s starts. The formula didn’t work today, as Macha couldn’t strand the runners she inherited from Ryndak, but Nicholson sees overall improvement from his pitching workhorses.
“They’re growing up, and they’ve both done a really good job of coming in and getting each other out of some jams,” Nicholson said. “It’s not easy to come in in those high-pressure situations and that to me shows maturity as much as anything else.”
The Devils still have a chance to get a series win against a California team that came into action Saturday tied with Washington and UCLA for the second-fewest losses in the conference at five.
ASU will hope to set a good tone ending the weekend with a win before they head south to Tucson next weekend to meet the Arizona Wildcats.
California will play a midweek game at Sacramento State before traveling home to meet a conference opponent in the Oregon State Beavers.
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