The Arizona State softball team suffered its first loss of the season on Sunday to the No. 22 ranked Baylor University Bears as part of the Wilson/Demarini invitational at Farrington Stadium. That ended a run of 21 consecutive victories to begin the season, a program record.
Considering we are about a third of the way through the season here are my grades in several major categories up to this point.
It is no secret this season that the Sun Devil offense puts fear into their opponents every time they step into the batters box and the stats back it up. Arizona State leads the Pac-12 in many offensive categories including batting average, slugging percentage, runs scored, home runs, and RBIs. They have also outscored their opponents 181-36.
Leading the team offensively is Cheyenne Coyle who is the team leader in home runs (eight), RBIs (26), and runs scored (28).
Through the first 22 games it is clear that this team’s biggest weakness is on defense. ASU has committed 20 errors this season, a mark that ties them with Oregon for the most among all Pac-12 teams. The Sun Devils are also ranked ninth in the Pac-12 in fielding percentage with a .965 mark.
The defense does seem to be improving however with the Devils committing five errors in the last eight games. This is a huge improvement considering they committed seven errors in the first seven games.
Last Season ASU made just 41 errors all season long, the third least among Pac-12 teams
The biggest strength for Arizona State headed into 2013 was definitely inside the circle. They welcomed back junior starter Dallas Escobedo, and after the departure of Hillary Bach after last season, junior Mackenzie Popescue took over as the number two starter.
Escobedo and Popescue along with Freshmen Jenna Makis and Alexis Cooper have posted the Pac-12’s second best ERA of 1.45, which has only been eclipsed by Oregon’s mark of 1.41. Arizona State leads the conference in strikeouts and wins while posting an opponent’s batting average of .179, second in the conference next to Oregon’s mark of .176.
The biggest concern for ASU‘s pitching staff has to be the amount of home runs they have allowed. In their first loss of the season to Baylor on Sunday the Sun Devils allowed four home runs in the 6-2 loss. On the season the Sun Devils have allowed 17 home runs, the second most in the Pac-12. If the Sun Devils can reduce the amount of home runs they give up as the season goes on, their pitching is good enough to possibly ride all the way to their second National Championship in three years.
A 21-1 record along with a stellar offense and a solid pitching staff, with just a few minor bugs to fix, has this Sun Devil team ranked third in the country for a reason.