The No. 16 ASU softball team got many different experiences this past weekend. Not just because of the games they played, but because of the connections to the host state.
Center fielder Morgan Howe said it was really nice to be able to go back there, even in a different uniform.
“It was really nice having my family out there,” Howe said. “I haven’t seen my grandma and grandpa in a really long time.”
The Fresno State transfer also enjoyed seeing all of her friends from the other invited teams.
Freshman first basemen Danielle Gibson also enjoyed her return to California.
“Palm Springs is just a fun tournament,” Gibson said. “To be able to perform with all the little kids watching and all those people who look up to us as college athletes makes me grateful for this opportunity.”
California is considered home to 70 percent of the Sun Devil roster — not to mention coach Trisha Ford spent all of her prior coaching career in California.
“A lot of this was already put into place,” Ford said. “Obviously I’m a California girl and we are going to recruit that area hard. You’re gonna see that.”
Ford has indeed made it evident in the prospects she has brought to the university. Freshmen like Gibson are already impacting the team in a big way.
Gibson this past weekend was an offensive standout with seven hits, four runs scored and four RBIs in the five games. She also connected for two solo homers in the final games of the weekend.
"I saw the ball well and just kind of did my thing," Gibson said. "I've gained my confidence here."
Offense was impactful, but great pitching trends continued for sophomore Giselle Juarez. She threw two complete games, allowing only one run and striking out 22 hitters.
When asked what worked, she had one simple answer; everything.
"From my pitching, to our hitting and to our defense," Juarez said, "everything was just phenonmenal."
"G (Juarez) is progressing along really nicely," Ford said. "She has done a really nice job of throwing through the zone."
With successes come struggles, and a game against the reigning national champion can't be ignored.
No. 4 Oklahoma took advantage of a few pitching mistakes and a standout game offensively from Sooners freshman Jocelyn Alo handed the Devils their second season loss.
But coach Ford always can find the positive in any negative scenario.
"They only hit three hard balls off of us," Ford said. "We just didnt execute some of the things we need to execute.
Additionally, Howe was only able to make contact twice this weekend. She had two hits in the five-game weekend.
"I just have to get a good pitch and hit it hard," Howe said. "I just got to focus on those two things like i have been in practice."
She started off the season hot, peaking to a .600 batting average after the first weekend. She has cooled off since then, and its something coach Ford has addressed to her over the past few days.
"I told her 'it is not really working well so lets try to fix it’," Ford said. "We're going to tidy up her strike zone and that's really it."
The Sun Devils begin the Tempe Classic tomorrow night at 7 p.m. when they take on Coastal Carolina.