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Wilson/DeMarini Invitational: ASU’s weekend preview

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The Sun Devils swung hard against Portland St. on Saturday but came close in Friday and Sunday’s games (Photo: Kelci Cooper/WCSN)The Sun Devils didn’t make things easy on themselves, but they still managed to improve to 16-0 last weekend with a sweep of Portland State.

Arizona State needed 12 innings to outlast the Vikings on Friday night, and after two easy wins on Saturday, the Sun Devils needed a walk-off single from Jennifer Soria in the seventh inning on Sunday to sneak away with a victory.

Arizona State will continue to have that perfect record tested, and they face stiff competition this weekend.

The Sun Devils will play six games over a four-day stretch, including five games as part of the Wilson/DeMarini Invitational.

Arizona State will kick things off with a Thursday night matchup against North Dakota.

The team will then follow that up with back-to-back games against Binghamton and North Dakota on Friday evening.

On Saturday, the Sun Devils will face off against East Carolina and North Carolina in another set of back-to-back games. Finally, Coach Clint Myers’ squad will cap off the weekend with a Sunday matinee against the No. 22 Baylor Bears.

Last weekend, the Sun Devils learned that they must take things one game at a time because overlooking a team can put a squad in a precarious situation. Arizona State nearly lost a pair of games against Portland State, and Coach Myers will stress the importance of focusing on the task at hand to his players.

 

Keys to the Weekend: 

1. Get Alix Going

The Sun Devils’ centerfielder was a revelation during her freshman year as her .395 batting average and 13 home runs provided a consistent form of offense that her team could rely on.

This year, Johnson has been suffering from a sophomore slump and is batting just .224 through the first 16 games. Fortunately for her, Coach Myers has the utmost trust that Johnson will come around and he continues to bat her at or near the top of the order.

Currently, she’s the only starter batting below .300, so a big weekend would make the Sun Devils’ order lethal from top to bottom.

2. Keep the Ball in the Park

With a 9-0 record and a 1.33 earned run average, it’s hard to believe that Sun Devils’ ace Dallas Escobedo has much to improve upon. However, her Achilles’ heel thus far has been her propensity for giving up the long ball.

Escobedo has allowed eight home runs this season, including five in the two games she started against Portland State.

The round-tripper is an instant way for opponents to seize momentum and against tougher competition, home runs could prove more costly. This weekend, her primary focus should be keeping the ball in the yard.

3. Make Work Easy

One of the most difficult parts of playing tournament softball is the fatigue that sets in. Fortunately for Arizona State, they have proven their ability to deal with this issue, winning six of their 16 games by the eight-run mercy rule.

If the Sun Devils can continue to close games out by the fifth inning, that makes catching back-to-back games easier for Amber Freeman, it gives Coach Myers more options with his starting pitchers, and it guarantees the Sun Devil offense came to play.

The Sun Devils will face a tough slate of opponents this weekend, so it’s important to seal up victories as early as possible.

Most Important Matchup:

No. 22 Baylor, Sunday 11:30 a.m.

After playing five games in three days, the Sun Devils will close out the weekend with their toughest test of the season to date.

On Sunday morning, Coach Myers’ squad will battle their first ranked opponent in Baylor. The Bears have compiled a 15-2 record, and they have won 14 consecutive games since dropping two of their first three.

During this 14-game winning streak, Baylor has not allowed more than three runs in any of the games and the Bears’ pitchers have tossed six shutouts.

Chances are, Dallas Escobedo will be in the circle for the Sun Devils, and they’ll need her at her best if she wants to put down an up-and-coming Bears team.

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