Alix Johnson celebrates her home run (Photo: ASU)
It should come as no surprise that the defending national champion softball team has gone back-to-back as House of Sparky's Sunday Sun Devil Star award. In fact, it makes so much sense that we're bestowing this week's honor to the player who started ASU's run to the Women's College World Series with the first shot of a back-to-back barrage.
After a listless 6-0 loss in Game 1 of the Super Regional match-up against Louisiana-Lafayette, the Sun Devils were facing elimination and the end of their title reign on Friday night. However, the pitching of Hillary Bach and a power surge from the lineup resulted in a 9-2 win and forced the series to a decisive third game.
After Ashley Brignac took the loss for ULL, the Cajuns sent Jordan Wallace out to pitch Game 3. Wallace had shutout the Sun Devils on a mere two hits on Thursday, and looked to repeat that mastery to send ULL to OKC.
However, Alix Johnson would have none of it.
After Katelyn Boyd had flied out to leadoff the bottom of the first, Johnson dug in and watched two Wallace offerings whiz by outside. Little did anyone know that Wallace's sixth pitch of the game would end with the most important swing of ASU's season.
Wallace fired off a strike down the heart of the plate...Johnson unleashed a beautiful swing...WHACK!...and the ball was soon flying majestically over the right field fence. With that run, Wallace's dominance ended and ASU's momentum began. Moments later, Haley Steele homered off the left field scoreboard in the next at bat, and the Sun Devils rout was on.
Not content to just land the first punch to the Cajuns, Johnson delivered the death blow in the fifth inning. After Talor Haro and Boyd reached to begin the inning, Johnson struck again for a three-run bomb that extended the Sun Devil lead to 7-0. An inning later, ASU scored again to enact the mercy rule and earn a repeat trip to the WCWS.
Other contenders: Sam Parlich (softball), Giulia Molinaro (golf)