Big performances from senior right-handed pitcher Breanna Macha and sophomore right fielder Kindra Hackbarth, launched the Sun Devils into the Tempe regional final in a win over Ole Miss on Saturday. With one more victory, ASU would advance to a super regional for a first time since 2013.
The two players shined in Arizona State’s (45-11) win over Ole Miss (31-24) by a score of 7-1. It was somewhat of a revenge game, after the Sun Devils’ season ended against the Rebels in the Oxford Regional last season.
“Going into this game, we took it a little bit personal because of what happened last year,” senior infielder Marisa Stankiewicz said. “We told the new girls this is how we felt there and how we lost over there. They took it upon themselves, came out and did a great job.”
Stankiewicz also added a home run in the fifth inning, it was the Sun Devils’ second home run of the day. The first belonged to Hackbarth. The right fielder’s three-run homer helped break open the game in the fourth, extending the Sun Devils’ lead to five.
Hackbarth had made a few loud outs against Ole Miss’ starter, Kaitlin Lee. Her third at-bat there was no one to make the catch and Lee’s day was done. Later on, Hackbarth added a double and came around to score on a sacrifice fly from junior third baseman Taylor Becerra.
“The at-bat before she almost hit it over the wall too. Maybe just being a little bit angry up there just gave her the extra oomph,” Macha said of Hackbarth. “She always comes through clutch.”
Macha in the circle obviously loved the extra run support after Hackbarth’s big fly, but in the end she didn’t need it. The senior righty went all seven innings, allowing one run on three hits. The only run didn’t come until a solo shot in the seventh from Ole Miss’ Abbey Latham.
The Rebels also struggled with Macha’s change up all day. She was able to keep them off balanced, helping her strikeout nine batters.
“Bre threw lights out,” ASU head coach Trisha Ford said. “This is Bre’s senior year. And if you talk to her as much as I talk to her, she wants this. She has found her rhythm. She has pitched great games. Her off-speed is working and her down ball is breaking hard. She’s just done a really good job.”
Sophomore shortstop Jade Gortarez and junior center fielder Morgan Howe also added RBIs, but there was a bit of controversy on those plays.
In the second inning it looked like Gortarez may have fouled a ball off herself. It was called a fair ball and Howe came in for the first run of the game. Ole Miss head coach Mike Smith came out to argue with no avail.
Howe had runners on first and second with two down, as she lined one over the pitcher and to the Rebels second baseman who flipped a high toss to the shortstop for the force out. The ASU runner, freshman Bella Loomis, was originally called out before an argument from Ford overturned the call.
Smith then came back out for a counterargument, but once again, the call did not go his way. While the play was under a microscope at second, Becerra had came home to score the second Devils’ run. Smith after the game advocated that it was time to add instant replay to softball, saying the game was too fast.
Freshman First team All Pac-12 Danielle Gibson took one at-bat before leaving the game with what appeared to be a knee injury that has bothered her the past couple of weeks. Ford said that she was fine to came back into the game, but wasn’t needed.
The Sun Devils won’t know their opponent for Sunday until Saturday night after Game five of the Tempe Regional. Either way, they’ll have two chances if necessary to win one game and move on to super regionals. The first game will be at 6:30 p.m. PST in Tempe.