Unlike most freshmen entering college softball, Arizona State pitcher Abby Andersen wasn’t eased into a new season.
Her first college start was against No. 7 Florida - A team that was in last year’s Women’s College World Series and returned a plethora of All-Americans from the run to Oklahoma City. It was a move that head coach Trisha Ford labeled as, “baptism by fire.”
The first batter she faced was a 2018 First-Team All-American and SEC Player of the Year in Amanda Lorenz. Things didn’t exactly start off in an ideal way.
“The very first batter (Lorenz) hits a home run and the next batter I hit in the head,” said Andersen with a laugh as she recalled the rocky first inning. “I think just stepping back after that and calming down and trusting my pitches was a key to keep going in that game just because I had a rough start.”
Andersen ended her outing that night fighting against a lethal Gator lineup. She went three innings while allowing five hits and two earned runs. She also hit three batters. The outing was tough but it was a learning experience.
If she could do it all over again, Andersen would want to face the Gators again too.
Andersen got a similar opportunity two weeks later against then No. 9 Texas. She appeared in a Friday night matchup and a Sunday afternoon game against the Longhorns. On Friday, she was roughed up, surrendering six earned runs in an 11-4 defeat.
That didn’t phase her. She came back two days later to close out the final 1.1 innings against Texas in a 9-6 upset win. Andersen spoke about her relationship with her head coach after the victory.
“We both know that we have worked really hard to get me where I am,” said Andersen of the pitcher-coach duo. “She knows this is what I want. I want these big games and I want these big teams. I don’t want to settle for less so I think she knows I have that mindset. Moving forward, I want to be put in these situations.”
Since the first outing against Texas, Andersen has pitched 28.2 innings and she has allowed three runs. On Tuesday against Lehigh, she fell just short of a perfect game. She is hitting her stride at just the right time as the Devils venture into conference play.
Junior center fielder Morgan Howe shed high praise on Andersen and even compared her to one of the Sun Devils’ best pitchers last season - Breanna Macha, who graduated after helping lead ASU on its Women’s College World Series run.
Howe said Andersen was similar in the way that both pitchers had no fear when they stepped in the circle.
“When Abby came in the fall, she reminded everybody of Macha,” Howe said. “...When she goes out there, I am just like, ‘Abby, do ya thang.’ She’s doing really well. She’s getting us outs and letting them put the ball in play...She’s doing great, especially for her freshman year. I can’t wait to see what she’s going to do over the next three years.”
Ford didn’t think Macha and Andersen were similar in regards to pitching style, but they did share a competitive fire .
“I wouldn’t put them two together...But Bre (Macha) was a competitor and she is a bulldog. I think Abby is moving in that direction,” Ford said. “Where they are similar is they want to be in big situations and Bre was the ultimate competitor.
“I feel like Abby is moving in that direction and she is...For me, Abby is somebody that even when things don’t go her way, what I really appreciate about her is that she learns from it and she wants to go back out there...From a coaching standpoint, that means that she’s going to have a longevity out on the mound and throughout her years.”
Andersen’s battery mate - junior catcher Maddi Hackbarth, has taken notice of Andersen’s demeanor as well.
“The most I have seen out of her is her growth. When she came here, she had to learn all of Coach Ford’s style of pitching,” Hackbarth said. “From the Fall to now, the way she has grown as a pitcher, as a human being, and as a player and teammate with everything, she’s matured really fast. The knowledge of the game has grown on her.”
Very proud of this one right here!! She’s only getting better and better https://t.co/8roREiOFZh— Maddi Hackbarth (@maddihack) March 13, 2019
With conference play beginning today, Andersen will likely have more daunting challenges in front of her. However, her attitude will stay the same no matter who is in the box or who she is facing.
“I want the ball,” Andersen said. “Those situations after the fact, you think about it or before you think about it. It’s like, ‘Wow, that’s kind of intimidating.’ In the moment, that’s something you are excited about and you want...You want to chase those types of roles.”