Rivalry games bring out incredible moments in sports. The same can be said about the rubber match between the Sun Devils and Wildcats on Sunday.
Arizona (31-13, 8-10 Pac-12) was able to outlast Arizona State (35-9, 9-6) in eight innings by a score of 4-2.
A pair of Wildcat sophomores, first baseman Alyssa Palomino and shortstop Jessie Harper, provided Arizona with all four RBIs in the winning effort to clinch the Territorial Cup series.
And the loss may have hit home a little harder for the Sun Devils.
“This is a really disgusting feeling. And I don’t think anybody wants to feel it ever again,” junior center fielder Morgan Howe said. “We’re a good team and I don’t think we know it. I don’t think we walk around like we should.”
“This taste of losing, we’re not accustomed to it. And we don’t like it. Once we taste it right now we’re going to flip the page and rip it out,” senior second baseman Marisa Stankiewicz said. “It can only get better from here. Every game matters and we can’t take one for granted. I think you’re going to see a different team come back into it.”
In her final game of the rivalry it looked as if Stankiewicz had brought life back into the Sun Devil team. An 11-pitch at-bat against Arizona’s left-handed pitcher Taylor McQuillin ended with Stankiewicz sending a solo shot to right field to tie the game at two and send it to extras.
TIE GAME @marisa_stank jumps the yard to make it a 2-2 game with nobody out! pic.twitter.com/9BfHa9pdt0— Sun Devil Softball (@ASUSoftball) April 23, 2018
The moment was ruined in the eighth inning when Harper hit a line drive over Howe’s head in center field to plate the two game-winning runs.
Arizona State dropped their first game when they were the first team to score this year. Sophomore right fielder Kindra Hackbarth doubled to open the first inning. She advanced on a wild pitch and then came up on a fielder’s choice, where she beat the throw to home to put the Devils up one.
Gutsy base running by Kindra Hackbarth puts @ASUSoftball on the board— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) April 23, 2018
Watch #Pac12SB on the app: https://t.co/ZhZuI5ezsa pic.twitter.com/MZ1u9dcdbc
Sophomore left-handed pitcher Giselle “G” Juarez started out strong for the Sun Devils. She retired the first 10 Wildcat batters she faced before allowing a single in the fourth. Juarez then hit a batter in the sixth inning, who later advanced to third via a stolen base and sac-fly.
Palomino then stepped to the plate with two outs trying to get her team on the board. And she did as she took the second pitch she saw from Juarez sending it over the center field wall to out the Cats up 2-1.
“Just focusing on me, not what they did. I hit their bat, they didn’t touch me,” Juarez said. “We just need to fight a little bit more. String better at-bats together. Things just didn’t go our way tonight, that’s all.”
This is now the second straight series the Sun Devils have dropped.
“Offensively we got to get better production up and down our lineup right now. There’s a couple kids consistent in our lineup having good at-bats, but we need to have it more spread out one through nine,” head coach Trisha Ford said.
They’ll head to Utah next weekend for a three-game series with the Utes.
“This can either become a bump in the road or it can turn into how we decide to play moving forward. We took a punch. We didn’t execute when we needed to execute,” Ford said. “They’re going to be fine. This is good in some respects for them to have a little reality check. I know we’re going to move in the right direction.”