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ASU Softball: Juarez, Stankiewicz lead No. 6 Sun Devils to upset over No. 1 UCLA

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The third win against a No. 1 team for ASU this season

Brady Vernon/House of Sparky

Facing the top-ranked team in the nation is nothing new for left-handed pitcher Giselle “G” Juarez. Back in March, the sophomore tossed two shutouts against then-No. 1 Washington to lead the Sun Devils to the upset series victory.

Juarez had her magic rolling again on Thursday night in Los Angeles versus the nation’s current top-ranked team. Behind the lefty, Arizona State (43-9, 16-6 Pac-12) ended UCLA’s (48-4, 18-4) 14-game winning streak in the 3-0 win.

“It builds our confidence especially going into postseason knowing we can hang with any team. It’s exciting, we’re excited,” Juarez said. “This win is huge, but it’s just one of three. We just got to get back to work tomorrow.”

“This team played their hearts out tonight,” ASU head coach Trisha Ford said. “It shows you how good ‘G’ is. That kid is a sophomore who didn’t really play as much as she wanted to last year. And she’s getting her opportunities and shining bright. I can’t say enough about what she means to our program. It’s fun to watch.”

For Juarez, it’s her 12th shutout, which is tied for an NCAA Division I best. Things didn’t start well in Los Angeles for “G.” On the first pitch she tossed she hit UCLA’s Kylee Perez to begin the game. She’d walk another batter in the inning before picking up three strikeouts to end the first.

Juarez finished the game going all seven innings for the Sun Devils, allowing three hits and striking out nine Bruin batters. The Glendale-native didn’t allow her first hit until the fifth inning on a deep ball in the hole to sophomore shortstop Jade Gortarez, who made an incredible effort to try to preserve the no-hitter on a tough play that UCLA’s Madeline Jelenicki beat out on a close call at first base. The other two hits came off a bunt and a weak ball to second base. Besides the weak contact Juarez kept Bruin batters off balanced all night.

Senior second baseman Marisa Stankiewicz ended the pitching duel between Juarez and UCLA’s star pitcher Rachel Garcia in the fourth inning with her ninth home run of the season. Stankiewicz’s three-run shot was all the offense Juarez needed.

The two-out rally began with freshman first baseman Danielle Gibson, who was hit by a pitch. The junior center fielder Morgan Howe then dropped a bunt for the first hit of the game before Stankiewicz ended the scoreless outing.

“It shows what kind of team we are capable of being,” Stankiewicz said. “Doing the little things like taking that pitch, getting hit by it. Putting that bunt down. Getting runners on for me to be able to come up big like that. It’s awesome to have a team that’s selfless.”

Juarez also benefitted from superb defense behind her, including a diving play from her fellow sophomore, right fielder Kindra Hackbarth.

Arizona State will go for the series victory on Friday night at Easton Stadium at 7 p.m. The Sun Devils will have senior right-hander Breanna Macha (14-5, 2.27 ERA) in the circle against UCLA’s Holly Azevedo (15-0, 2.09 ERA).