Freshman first baseman Danielle Gibson has a knack for clutch moments. Gibson had the walk-off hit against Texas State and all four RBI in the Sun Devils’ two wins against No. 1 Washington. Her first experience in the Territorial Cup on Friday added no pressure as she came through again.
Gibson’s double in the bottom of the seventh inning allowed junior center fielder Morgan Howe to come all the way around from first base to send Arizona State (35-7, 9-4 Pac-12) home with a 2-1 victory over Arizona (29-13, 6-10).
“Gibby (Gibson) has been nails all year long. She’s fun to watch, she’s fun to watch compete, she just lives for these moments,” Sun Devils’ head coach Trisha Ford said. “We’re so excited she’s a Devil. To see her joy when she comes up in those situations. She’s got that confidence. You can see it in her like I’m about to do something special. And she kind of sits there and smiles a little bit.”
Added Gibson: “I had the opportunity and I was able expand on it. Mo(rgan Howe) did her part, I got to do mine. It was a good team win on our part. She (Ford) knows with pressure situations I take it as an opportunity not pressure.”
Gibson’s game-winning hit was only the Sun Devils’ second hit of the day. The first belonged to Hackbarth. The Sun Devils’ leadoff hitter found her second home run of the season in the fourth inning to tie the game at one.
“In the dugout everyone was like ‘Gibby (Gibson) is going to walk it off with a home run.’ I said ‘no, she’s going to hit a gap,’ said right fielder Kindra Hackbarth. “And then just Morgan scoring, I just felt chills.
“I saw and heard contact I was like ‘there’s no way.’ I saw it go over. I knew it was a deep ball, I was jumping up and down point at ‘G’ (ASU pitcher Giselle Juarez).”
Hackbarth said it best about sophomore left-handed pitcher Giselle “G” Juarez’s performance on Friday. Juarez went all seven innings for the Sun Devils allowing one run on three hits, while striking out 13 Wildcats.
The first inning wasn’t smooth sailing for Juarez as Arizona’s leadoff hitter senior center fielder Ashleigh Hughes started the game with a home run. It was the first, first inning run Juarez allowed since February 13th against Texas State.
The Wildcats kept threatening in the first with a single and a walk. The threat was ended as senior second baseman Marisa Stankiewicz made a stellar diving play and glove flip to sophomore shortstop Jade Gortarez to end the frame.
“All our defensive players can (save runs). It’s fantastic, it pumps me up,” Juarez said about the defense behind her. “Obviously it gets me to calm down more. It just let’s me throw my game.”
For a lot of these Sun Devils it was their first game of the Arizona State-Arizona rivalry.
“It was exciting,” Howe, a transfer from Fresno State said. “When I saw Gibby (Gibson) hit the ball, I was like ‘oh, this is it. This is going to be big right here.’ I understand the hype now. I understand the rivalry.”
Game two of the Territorial Cup will be Saturday at 2 p.m. PT with the expected pitching matchup being senior right-hander Breanna Macha (10-4, 2.50 ERA) against Arizona’s sophomore right-hander Alyssa Denham (6-3, 2.18 ERA).