Game one: Juarez continues dominant streak with season-high strikeout total
It has almost become the expectation this season for sophomore Giselle “G” Juarez to strikeout every hitter she faces. While she didn’t get every hitter, she had her pitches working.
Juarez set a new career-high with 13 strikeouts in the No. 16 Sun Devils (16-2) 8-0 shutout of Coastal Carolina (12-8) Saturday afternoon in six innings. Juarez had also carried a no-hitter into the top of that inning with one out already secured.
“Me being able to do my thing and trust our at-bats is great,” Juarez said. “It’s a fun time.”
Juarez threw her best game of the season with a complete game one-hitter. Coastal Carolina only had two total base runners all game.
“You really have to understand what your craft is,” head coach Trisha Ford said. “‘G’ has got the stuff to be special.”
Ford and Juarez have both mentioned her summer pitching for team USA has really improved her and propelled her into this dominant state as a pitcher.
Offensively, Juarez was backed by multiple performances in the Sun Devil lineup. Left fielder Nichole Chilson hit a fifth inning three-run homer over the center field fence. She reached base in all three of her at bats, which totaled six on the afternoon.
“I feel really confident in the box right now,” Chilson said. “I went in early today and watched film with coach Rich, said I was a little bit under the ball, so it felt good to finally hit one over the fence.”
Right fielder Kindra Hackbarth finished with two hits, two RBIs and scored a run in four at-bats. To send the Chanticleers screaming mercy, first basemen Danielle Gibson drove a two-RBI double into the gap to walk-off in the bottom of the sixth. She totaled two hits, two RBIs and two runs in three at bats.
The bad for ASU in game one on Saturday was that center fielder Morgan Howe exited early after striking out in her only two at bats. Junior Skylar McCarty would replace her.
Game two: Late inning heroics from the middle infield send the Devils home victorious
The game was offensively silent for five and half innings. New Mexico State (10-7) stranded six runners in six innings, and ASU had only two hits going into the bottom of the sixth.
Enter Marisa Stankiewicz.
The redshirt senior sent her first home run of the season over the center field fence to produce the first run of the game, but it didn’t end there.
Three hitters later, shortstop Jade Gortarez lined a pitch into the netting in front of the scoreboard in left field to drive in runs two and three for the Sun Devils, the last runs in ASU’s 3-0 victory.
“I was just looking for something I could drive and start something for the team,” Stankiewicz said. “I haven’t barreled a ball yet in a game and I knew it was coming. It felt really nice.”
Stankiewicz and Gortarez have shown great chemistry defensively as well. Stankiewicz said they like to have fun but know when the time is to get focused.
“All of us (in the infield) do exceptional jobs,” Gortarez said. “We held it down and I was really impressed with us.”
This game was started by senior Dale Ryndak, who held the Aggies to just three hits through five innings. She struck out three and hit one batter in her non-decisive effort.
Senior Breanna Macha entered in relief in the sixth inning. She worked herself in and out of a jam when center fielder Victoria Castro reached on a throwing error and third basemen Nikki Butler singled up the middle to put two on with one out.
Macha kept her composure by striking out the next hitter on three pitches and working a fly out from a tough 11-pitch at-bat by left fielder Amy Bergeson.
Other notes: Becerra received her second consecutive start at third base and Howe received her first game off in favor of McCarty in center field and the three-hole.
“We’ve got a lot of good talent on the bench,” Ford said. “There’s gonna be times when someone hits kind of a cold spell and we’ve got kids itching to get out on that field.”
Ford said a lot of her lineup decisions are reflective of the matchups ASU faces.
The Sun Devils have a stretch of home games starting on Tuesday when they take on South Dakota (6-14) at 6 p.m. They’ll then face Georgetown (5-11) on Wednesday and have a weekend series with Minnesota (11-7) to close out the university’s spring break.