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ASU Softball: No. 14 Devils keep win streak alive in Minnesota sweep

The Sun Devils push their winning streak to 11 games despite losing their shutout streak.

Brady Vernon/House of Sparky

Game one: ASU run rules Minnesota in five quick innings

Minnesota (14-10) screamed for mercy when No. 14 Arizona State (21-2) had an offensive explosion on Sunday afternoon.

The Devils made quick work of the Gophers in a 9-1 victory in just five innings.

The long ball was the highlight of the game for several Sun Devils. Left fielder Nichole Chilson smacked her fourth of the season. She drove in two and scored twice in two at-bats.

Catcher Maddi Hackbarth and designated player Skylar McCarty went back-to-back in the fourth inning for their sixth and first home runs of the season. Hackbarth continues to lead the team with now 24 RBI on the season.

“Going into the game we always have a plan,” Hackbarth said. “My plan was to sit inside and make sure I’m on time for it.”

Hackbarth’s home run total is second on the team only behind first basemen Danielle Gibson with nine.

Gibson caused the Devils a scare when she stretched off first base to make an attempt to bring in the throw from across the diamond. She did the splits keeping her foot on the base. She would eventually be taken out in the fifth inning.

On the pitching side, the shutout streak would come to an end after 33 and 23 scoreless innings. Center fielder Morgan Howe lost a fly ball in the sunlight, and when the ball landed in center, Minnesota’s first and only run came around to score.

Breanna Macha was not bothered by the streak ending. She finished with four strikeouts, allowing the one run and four hits in a complete game performance.

“I felt confident,” Macha said. “Once again having my defense behind me solidifies everything.”

Game two: Juarez spins another gem from the circle to complete series sweep

It was a pitching dominated game two, in which ASU would continue winning and push their streak to eleven.

Pitcher Giselle ‘G’ Juarez continued her dominance in the circle with a complete game shutout in ASU’s 4-0 victory.

“I have to remember this is a new game,” Juarez said in reference to having faced Minnesota before. “Just taking it inning by inning, pitch by pitch was the difference today.”

Juarez has now won eight consecutive starts and has only allowed four runs since her start against Tennessee. Head coach Trisha Ford has shown great pleasure with her recent pitching.

“She has been our horse,” Ford said. “She did a really good job of keeping them off their toes.”

Both Macha and Juarez have continued to solidify this staff of four. Among the four, opponents have scored 41 runs compared to the offense’s 148. They have a combined ERA of 1.37 in 148 innings.

Attentive base running helped the Devils score their first couple of runs. Howe made it around the bases on a couple of wild pitches by Minnesota in the fourth.

A bunt single by shortstop Jade Gortarez brought third basemen Bella Loomis in to score in the fifth after escaping a run down. Howe would then drive in Gortarez in the next at-bat.

While it at first was a concern with Gibson’s injury, she started the second game and appeared fine — particularly when she sent her ninth home run of the season over the left field fence.

“She’s gonna be fine,” Ford said. “There was no reason not to rest her.”

McCarty continued to make her case to stay in the starting lineup with a hit in game two.

“No one has a set position on this team and we all work for it,” McCarty said. “(Coach Ford) helps us through our struggles and pushes us to be better.”

The Sun Devils will have a doubleheader at home against Iowa (8-8) on Wednesday; their final games before they open conference play against No. 1 Washington (27-0).