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ASU Softball: Giselle “G” Juarez is Devils’ new star in the circle

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Juarez might have a place with the names of Katie Burkhart and Dallas Escobedo

Brady Vernon/House of Sparky

“Just be you.”

That is what you’ll find written on the glove of Sun Devils’ sophomore left-handed pitcher Giselle “G” Juarez.

“My dad always told me, ‘just be you cause you can only be as good as you are that day. You can’t get any better that day,’” Juarez said. “It’s just remembering to be myself in that moment and not try to be anyone else. Or to try too much.”

In Arizona State’s season opening loss to No. 7 Tennessee, that mindset may have gotten away from the sophomore. Juarez allowed six runs over five innings against the Volunteers. But that loss is far behind her now.

Juarez has pitched 93 innings since then. In that time, she’s allowed four earned runs, struck out 152 batters — including a career-high 17 against No. 22 California — and earned 13 victories.

“I think that game, it’s the first game of the season a lot of adrenaline is going. There may have been too much, but I mean it’s just focusing on me and my team. As a opposed to ‘oh my god it’s Tennessee our first game right out the jump.’

“So I think that’s what has been the biggest difference. When we played Washington it wasn’t about ‘oh my gosh they’re Washington. They’re number one.’ It was about playing our game and me pitching my game.”

After shutting out No. 1 Washington twice and throwing 15 scoreless innings against Cal, the awards have started to roll in for her. Juarez was named the national pitcher of the week by both, NFCA and USA softball this past week, while earning Pac-12 pitcher of the week for the third consecutive week.

Juarez wasn’t always supposed to be a Sun Devil, though — a “blessing in disguise” is how she has described her journey to Tempe. The left-handed pitcher had originally signed her letter of intent to play at Fresno State for former Bulldogs, and now Arizona State, head coach Trisha Ford.

In March of her senior year of high school at local Mountain Ridge High School in Glendale, Juarez tore her right-hip labrum. The injury prompted her to ask for her release from Fresno State which, after a period of resistance, was allowed. She talked about what influenced her to choose the Maroon and Gold.

“Just being close to home,” Juarez said. “When I got injured it was actually before I had found out that she (Ford) was coming here. That was actually my biggest reason for coming here. I wanted to stay close to home going through the surgery process. And through all of that, that way I could have the support from my family.”

Juarez received surgery going in her freshman year as a Sun Devil in August, 2016. Everything was fine until warm-ups for a game against Iowa on March 4, 2017.

“I knew when I landed that it had torn,” Juarez said.

She had re-torn the previously repaired right-hip labrum, but Juarez decided to play through the injury until season’s end. Before getting her second surgery, she decided to keep playing for Ford in the summer for the Junior Women’s National Team that Ford is an assistant coach for. Juarez pitched against the Japanese National team, a game where she gained a enormous amount of confidence.

“They’re great competitors,” Juarez said. “I think it said a lot when I hung with them. I felt like I could hang with anyone.”

With the new bode of confidence, she decided it was time get the second surgery in August, 2017. But coach Ford took no risks with her sophomore pitcher.

“For her, I think we got things right. We took things extra, extra, extra slow,” Ford said. “And the other thing is she fixed some mechanical things that were kind of not helping the situation. She didn’t have huge mechanical flaws, but she had some things that were not helping that hip stabilization.

“We sat down with our sports staff, strength and conditioning, our trainer, myself and really dissected her motion. And came up with the game-plan of how to kind of stabilize it. Work on her core, we did some tweaking with her hip placement. That’s our job as coaches is to give them tools to go in that tool box and she’s been able to tap into them.”

Even as the accolades have started to stack up for Juarez, her goals are far from being accomplished.

“Getting us back to where we’re heading right now,” Juarez said. “To win a national championship, obviously that’s everyone’s goal here. My personal goal was to just do my job and give this team the best opportunity to win.”

Juarez’s partner in the circle — senior Breanna Macha — knows the chances Juarez gives the Sun Devils in winning more than just a game.

“Even before her big weekend this weekend, we took a run together,” Macha said. “And I was saying, ‘you’re going to get us to the national championship.’ Like her single-handedly alone.

“Her and Danielle Gibson, them two they’re going to take us to the national championship. And I straight up told her that.”

Now healthy, Juarez has the talent and the team support behind her to join Arizona State legends Katie Burkhart and Dallas Escobedo who pitched the Sun Devils to national championships in 2008 and 2011.