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ASU Softball: No. 12 Devils pull away late to defeat Cal State Northridge 8-2

McCarty shines in Sunday afternoon win

Richard Martinez/House of Sparky

Things were tight entering the bottom of the sixth inning. ASU (4-1) led by one run in a 3-2 game against Cal State Northridge (1-4) on the final day of the Kajikawa Classic.

With one out in the sixth and a runner in scoring position, senior outfielder Skylar McCarty stepped to the plate while the Sun Devils led by just one run. Then came some timely insurance. On the first pitch of the at-bat, the senior got a pitch up at the belt and did not miss.

She sent it flying over the center field wall, giving ASU a 5-2 lead and some breathing room. Following the big fly, the Devils added three more runs to round out an 8-2 victory on Sunday afternoon.

McCarty’s home run ended up being a part of a 3-3 game with three RBI’s.

“I am feeling confident,” said McCarty of her performance. “We are all having fun so that helps. We are all loose. Our pitching staff is doing great...We are coming away with runs and we doing the little things right now, so it’s exciting to watch all nine of us.”

Prior to a five-run sixth inning, ASU had some trouble breaking things open early against Cal State Northridge sophomore pitcher Jillian James. Getting runners on wasn’t a problem, as ASU had a variety of runners on the bases, but James continued to tight rope out of jams.

ASU led 3-0 after four innings, but they had left eight runners stranded. Additionally, Cal State Northridge added two runs in the top half of the fifth.

“That pitcher is pretty good,” said head coach Trisha Ford of James. “She’s got enough juice on her (with speed) and she changed speeds...She had some good stuff.”

Nonetheless, ASU used some small ball to help generate three runs. McCarty, senior third baseman Taylor Becerra, and junior outfielder Kindra Hackbarth all had bunt singles, and Becerra and Hackbarth in particular wreaked havoc on the bases.

Becerra scored the first run of the game from second base on an infield single where she never let off the gas with two outs. A ball was bobbled for just a second, and Becerra ended up touching home plate.

Then in the fourth inning, Hackbarth deadened a perfect bunt right in front of home plate. She was safe at first and on the bunt coverage, the Cal State Northridge third baseman crashed too hard, leaving third base wide open. With her head up, Becerra strolled into the empty bag.

“We always really preach base running and we really worked hard on our small ball,” Ford said. “We have a lot of kids with good speed and great instincts for the game so we can put pressure on defenses that way.”

Senior center fielder Morgan Howe also added an RBI double to make the score 3-0 in the fourth before the loud sixth inning.

ASU ended up out hitting Northridge 12-2, and five different players had two hits or more for the Sun Devils. Freshman outfielder Yannira Acuna had another solid day with a double, a triple, and two RBI’s.

Furthermore, junior shortstop Jade Gortarez and sophomore second baseman Bella Loomis made a couple of solid plays behind junior pitcher Samantha Mejia, who started her second consecutive game in the circle.

Mejia ended up hurling a complete game while allowing just two runs and two hits in a strong performance.

“I think what was working well for me was my screwball and getting ground balls, and being able to let my defense do work behind me,” Mejia said.

Ultimately, ASU never really let away control of Sunday’s game. Things got close and Cal State Northridge put up a good fight, but the Devils prevailed. After a loss late on Friday night, ASU bounced back nicely, winning their final three games of the weekend while winning four out of their five games in the Kajikawa Classic.

“I thought we did a great job after a really bad loss...Really up to that point (Saturday and Sunday), we hadn’t played a good game if I am being frank,” Ford said. “We did a great job of taking that to heart and coming out for the next three games and really doing a great job. It was nice to see.”