(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
In their first road Pac-12 series the No. 20/21 Arizona State Sun Devils beat the unranked California Golden Bears by a score of 7-4 in nine innings.
The game got off to a very quick start. Senior Jennifer Soria led off the game with an opposite field home run off of Cal starter Nisa Ontiveros to give ASU the 1-0 lead.
The Sun Devils quickly jumped on Ontiveros in their half of the second as well. Following a Nicole Chilson leadoff single and a Katee Aguirre sacrifice bunt, the Sun Devils had a runner in scoring position. Two batters later they would have runners on the corner and two outs, but Ontiveros got out of the jam getting senior Nikki Girard to lineout to center field.
In the circle for the Sun Devils was junior Kelsey Kessler. The ace of the best pitching staff in the Pac-12 showed her strength early on.
Kessler gave up just two hits through her first three innings. Of the three baserunners to reach base, none reached scoring position. A lot of that was due to some stellar ASU defense. Diving catches by Chelsea Gonzales, Soria and Nicole Chilson stifled any Golden Bears attempt at a rally.
ASU would pick up another run in the third inning. Ontiveros had a short leash and was pulled in favor of Katie Sutherland-Finch. The Sun Devils welcomed her with back-to-back singles to start the inning. Soria would come all the way around to score on a sac bunt and an RBI single off the bat of Girard.
Kessler continued to mow down the Golden Bear lineup. After allowing a leadoff single Kessler shut down Cal in order, striking out the five and six place hitters and then getting a pop out from Kobie Pettis.
The Sun Devils would threaten again in the visiting half of the sixth. After Girard singled to start off the inning, Sutherland-Finch found herself caught in the middle of some indecisiveness on a chopper back to the circle.
The infield hit, followed by an Aguirre groundout gave ASU runners on second and third with only one out. Sutherland-Finch buckled down and got freshman Fa Leilua to pop out and keep the game at 2-0.
The Sun Devils flashed the leather in defense of Kessler once again in the bottom of the sixth. Soria ranged far into shallow left center field to make a sliding grab to get the second out of the inning. After a two out walk, Kessler got sophomore Taurie Pogue to lazily fly out to right.
After going quietly in the top of the seventh and Kessler would return to the circle looking for the complete game.
Cal got its leadoff runner on, and immediately followed that up with a game tying two run home run off the bat of Pettis.
Kessler settled down after the long ball and send the game into extras tied at 2.
ASU would pick up Kessler in the top of the eighth. After a quick two outs to start the inning, Aguirre singled and was replaced by pinch runner Skylar McCarty.
In the ensuing at bat, sophomore Brynley Steele, sent one over the right field wall to give the Sun Devils a 4-2 lead.
Sophomore Dale Ryndak came in to relieve Kessler to start the bottom of the eighth. After the first two runners reached base Ryndak found her back against the wall. She got the next batter to groundout, but each of the runners moved up 60 feet in the process. Cal once again showed its fight tying the game on an error sending the game to the ninth.
The Sun Devils bounced back in their half of the ninth. Soria stepped up with one out in the ninth and hit her second homerun of the day to almost the exact spot of her first inning shot.
Gonzales walked in the ensuing at bat and then Girard stepped up and gave the Sun Devils some breathing room with a two run shot of her own to make the score 7-4.
Pitching with a three run lead, Ryndak shut down the Golden Bears in order to pick up the save and secure the extra inning victory. 7-4.
The win moved ASU to 26-9 on the year and was its second extra inning win this season. Game two of this series will be tomorrow at 4 p.m.