(Photo: Alli Cline/WCSN)
When the Arizona State softball team began its season in February, the players slated to be top contributors quickly proved their worth. Senior catcher Amber Freeman, senior third baseman Haley Steele, and sophomore shortstop Chelsea Gonzales immediately became vital to the team’s success.
However, some of ASU’s most important offensive threats at this point in the season are players who weren’t expected to take on such a huge responsibility.
Junior outfielder Abby Spiel and sophomore catcher Sashel Palacios are players that head coach Craig Nicholson can very rarely afford to have out of his lineup.
Spiel, who started the season mainly as a pinch runner before taking over in center field for Jennifer Soria, is currently second on the team in batting average (.371).
Palacios is hitting at a .329 clip and boasts a .476 on-base percentage heading into the April 17-19 series against Oregon State. Spiel did not begin the season as one of the regular nine, but didn’t let that affect her mindset moving forward.
“If my role was the backup outfielder, I just knew I had to be ready,” Spiel said. “Everyday I came out here and just worked as hard as I could and acted like I was one of the starters.”
Coach Nicholson is very pleased with the fact that all 23 players on his roster adhere to the same belief as Spiel, not allowing their playing time to dictate how they approach a practice or game situation.
“Whether it’s somebody coming in to play defense late in the game in the outfield or pinch run or pinch hit, I think we’re doing a pretty good job of just being prepared,” Nicholson said.
Not only has Spiel been a major contributor with the bat, but she has also proven more than capable on defense, holding a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage while playing a vital position in center field.
A roster that allots every active player considerable playing time in one or more facets of the game could be a huge advantage for Nicholson and the Sun Devils coming down the stretch. The postseason is already in sight and this kind of versatile, deep lineup is one that could help ASU when they take on some of the hardest teams they will face this season in the coming weeks.
Unforeseen contribution from players like Spiel and Palacios has proven that it’s never a bad thing to change a lineup as the season moves along. Come crunch time, the one thing this ASU softball team will have more than enough of is experience.