Coming into the season, it was known that senior center fielder Morgan Howe, junior right fielder Kindra Hackbarth and sophomore first baseman DeNae Chatham would have a big impact in the Sun Devils’ lineup. The trio wasted no time on Thursday to prove that statement.
After Western Michigan (0-2) had a four-run third inning, Arizona State (1-0) blasted their way back to win 8-4 after trailing by three early. Howe, Hackbarth and Chatman combined to score five runs and produce six RBIs for ASU.
Once the Sun Devils tied the game back up in the fifth, Howe and Chatman put it away. Howe had a three-run opposite field home run in the sixth to cement the victory and put ASU up 8-4. Her blast was an inning after Chatman’s first dinger on her moonshot of a solo home run.
“I was super proud of DeNae today, she had a great did a great job making sure she was getting good pitches and she wasn’t getting out of her zone,” head coach Trisha Ford said.
The comeback began in the third inning when Hackbarth doubled to lead off the frame. After advancing to third, she’d come around to score on Howe’s double that immediately followed Hackbarth’s. The center fielder herself came around to score when shortstop Jade Gortarez drove her in with a sacrifice fly.
“It’s funny because I was asked a while ago, ‘who do you look forward to watching you play?” And I was like Morgan because it’s either I don’t get on but she does. It’s nice to have her behind me because I know if I don’t hold my end, she has my back behind me. She’s just an incredible hitter,” said Hackbarth about having Howe behind her in the lineup.
Hackbarth was responsible for sending the lone ASU run in the fourth. Her second double of the night scored second baseman Bella Loomis, who had been hit by a pitch. ASU never had the big inning that the Broncos did, but kept putting together one or two runs here and there.
After her four-RBI game, Howe talked about how ASU improved the second time through the order and whether it was seeing Western Michigan’s senior left-hander pitcher again or shaking off the offseason rust:
“Seeing another pitcher throw at you other than our own definitely is one of those rust type things,” she said. “But also making adjustments second time through you know what she threw, you have all the batters in front of you knowing what you threw. You just talk to each other
While the offense got going after the second time through the order, the new Sun Devil pitching staff also had a decent night. Both righty transfers in junior Samantha Mejia and redshirt junior Cielo Meza got action in the season opener.
Mejia started the game and tossed five innings, outside of the frame where the Broncos scored four, the Fresno State transfer didn’t feel much pressure from Western Michigan. The four runs against her were all unearned. Meza closed the game out for the Sun Devils after their grabbed back the lead. In her ASU debut she allowed three hits over the final two innings.
“Sam came in and through a heck of a game. Cielo game in and was lights out, she did a great job,” Ford said.