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ASU softball: No. 23 Sun Devils knock off Nebraska, Purdue

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The Sun Devils take down Purdue with ease in the morning, win a close game with Nebraska in the evening.

Brady Vernon/House of Sparky

Game one: Ryndak commanding, as Sun Devils capture first win of season

Sun Devil pitcher Dale Ryndak allowed a hit to the first batter she faced during Friday afternoon’s 9-1 win over the Purdue Boilermakers, but after that she dominated.

Ryndak would retire the next nine batters she faced as she found a groove for the first three innings.

She didn’t get into trouble until the fourth inning as she hit Purdue’s Mallory Baker with a pitch. Ryndak made up for her mistake as she got the next hitter to ground into a double play.

Unfortunately, Ryndak couldn’t keep the Boilermakers off the scoreboard as designated player Alexa Binckes hit a solo home run to tie the game 1-1 for Purdue.

The Sun Devils grabbed the lead after first baseman Danielle Gibson hit a solo shot in the second inning.

Ryndak wasn’t out of the fourth inning just yet.

She walked back-to-back batters, but catcher Maddi Hackbarth picked up her pitcher by throwing out the runner trying to advance to third on a ball in the dirt.

Ryndak would bounce back in the fifth inning as she set down the Purdue hitters one, two, three. She’d finish the day throwing 5 2/3 innings surrendering only two hits and causing to the Boilermaker hitters to create weak contact.

Ryndak attributed her dominance to her experience.

“Just being a senior in general,” she said. “This is my fourth time coming back, you just have a really good handle on things.”

Meanwhile, in the bottom of the fifth, the Sun Devils would regain the lead. Shortstop Jade Gortarez barely missed a home run as she drove a ball to the warning track.

Two pitches later, though, Arizona State centerfielder Morgan Howe didn’t miss any of it. Howe sent the ball over the right field fence giving the Sun Devils a 2-1 lead and ending Purdue’s starting pitcher Kaitlynn Moody’s day.

The home run was also Howe’s first as a Sun Devil since transferring from Fresno State.

“Today felt great, today felt comfortable,” Howe said. “It didn’t hit me until yesterday that I was here.”

The Sun Devil offense wasn’t done yet. After, a single by Fa Leilua and a walk by Marisa Stankiewicz, Hackbarth continued her offensive tear. She hit a ground rule double giving the Devils a 3-1 advantage.

Gibson also wanted more, as she blooped a single over the head of the Boilermaker’s first baseman. Both Stankiewicz and pinch runner Bella Loomis would come around to score. Arizona State would head into the sixth inning up 5-1.

The Sun Devils were 0-6 with runners in scoring position before Hackbarth and Gibson’s hits.

Sun Devils’ head coach Trisha Ford did have a few comments about the struggles with runners in scoring position.

“Our focus is always going to be get a good pitch and drive it hard,” Ford said. “We’re looking to drive the ball, we just didn’t come up with big hit till later on in the game. It’s just us continuing with our philosophy.”

Ryndak would get the first two outs before Alyssa Loza came into the game making her season debut. Loza only needed to retire one batter.

The Sun Devils won in walk-off fashion as well on Friday. Hackbarth kept writing new chapters to her Arizona State story.

After a double by Howe and back to back walks, Hackbarth capitalized once again with runners in scoring position as she hit a grand slam to end the game due to run rule. The Fresno State transfer has quickly become the forefront of the Devils’ offense.

Game two: ASU squeaks by Nebraska with a strong relief outing

A game that looked like it was going to be a shucking of the Huskers ended in a tight finish Friday night for the Devils.

ASU secured its second victory of the season, and the day, in 6-4 win over Nebraska at Farrington Stadium.

The Sun Devils were led offensively by Morgan Howe, who sent a screamer over the centerfield wall in the first inning. She finished with two hits, two runs scored and an RBI.

“Today felt great,” Howe said. “Our team does a really good job having energy all the time, and this (home run) added an extra spark.”

Howe’s home run continued to push ASU’s offense with a four-run third inning. By the end of the third, it led 5-0 and starter Breanna Macha had only allowed three total baserunners heading into the fourth.

Nebraska’s bottom of the order produced runs with a sac-fly by Alexis Perry and a three-run home run that towered over the left field fence by Bri Cassidy. It pulled the Huskers within one.

The game had gone from over to interesting.

Howe also contributed defensively. In that same inning, she turned what would have been a sacrifice fly into a double play with a laser throw to third base. It saved ASU from surrendering the game-tying run.

“Mo has put in her time,” head coach Trisha Ford said. “She can hit, she is in great shape, she’s got a good arm. That is who she is and it’s why we recruited her.”

Macha had struggled with her command as her outing went on, particularly in the fourth. She allowed three consecutive baserunners on two walks and a double and then walked her third batter of the inning before allowing the home run by Cassidy.

“It was one thing happening after another,” Macha said. “I sped up the pace of my game and that was ultimately what happened.”

In two games for the Devils, Macha has allowed five runs in just six innings of work. She had the ground ball working today with six of her twelve outs coming on the ground.

“I expect the ball to be hit on the ground,” Macha said. “I’m a groundball pitcher and I’ve accepted that role over the past couple years.”

After Friday, all four of ASU’s pitchers have thrown. Coach Ford said that the matchup is what matters going forward in the Kajikawa Classic.

“We’re a committee,” Ford said. “I think G and Bre have both thrown really well. Dale threw good today and [Alyssa] Loza is gonna suck up some innings for us.”

ASU’s next opponent will be the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. First pitch will be at 7:30 p.m.