Senior right-handed pitcher Breanna Macha has mentioned many times this season that sophomore left-handed pitcher Giselle “G” Juarez has the talent to lead the team to a national championship. And when the Sun Devils needed a win the most, Juarez came through.
Behind Juarez’s gem, No. 7 Arizona State (34-7, 8-4 Pac-12) defeated the third-ranked Oregon Ducks (34-7, 9-3) on Sunday afternoon by a score of 4-0.
The sophomore pitcher threw another complete game, allowing only three hits in seven innings of shutout ball against the Ducks. Juarez only struck out seven batters, but her defense behind her was excellent, including a few nice plays from junior third baseman Taylor Becerra.
“I can totally let go of the first game,” Juarez said after bouncing back from her loss Friday night to the Ducks. “Day two is usually the hardest and it makes a difference. Obviously we put up more runs and we made some great defensive plays. It was exciting. It reminded me of Washington Sunday game. We made some great plays today and that’s all I can ask for.”
“We prepare at practice expecting to be harder than it is in a game,” Becerra said. “At practice, we hit shots like that all the time and I miss them all the time. To have it happen in a game and come through was really cool.”
At the plate, sophomore shortstop Jade Gortarez fell a single short of the cycle.
Gortarez started the first inning with a opposite field double. Freshman first baseman Danielle Gibson brought her in with a two-out single to give the Sun Devils their first lead of the series. And a very important run, as Arizona State improved to 31-0 this season when scoring first.
The shortstop wasn’t done. In the third inning, she sent her seventh home run of the season over the center field wall to extend the Devils’ lead to two. Arizona State added another run in the fourth after drawing three walks in the inning. Including a hit-by-pitch that brought in the run to put the Devils up 3-0.
Gortarez then led off the fifth inning with a triple that skipped past the diving Oregon sophomore right fielder Haley Cruse. Junior center fielder Morgan Howe singled up the middle to score Gortarez for the third time in the game and give the Devils a 4-0 lead.
“I was seeing the ball better today, but I wasn’t even thinking about that. The only stat that matters is a ‘W,’” Gortarez said about her falling short of the cycle. “I came in early today, watched film, went over all the pitches in all my at-bats, talked about all my adjustments with the coaches for maybe 20 minutes this morning. I just felt prepared for today.”
Arizona State head coach Trisha Ford talked about how pleased she was with her team’s winning performance over the Ducks.
“We played our game,” Ford said. “I thought ‘G’ threw lights out. It’s a tough game. They’ve seen her now a couple of times. And we made some big hits when we needed to. I think Gibby (Gibson) did a great job getting us on board early on in the game. Jade had fantastic at-bats today, fouled off a ball, then hit a home run after that. We had a lot of players have some big time at-bats.”
The Sun Devils next host their rival, the Arizona Wildcats, at Farrington Stadium for a three-game series starting Friday.