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ASU Softball: No. 15 Sun Devils beat Princeton, lose to Wisconsin

Another split

Brady Vernon/House of Sparky

In the second day of the Sun Devil Classic, No. 15 Arizona State (14-6) repeated their results from Friday with a win against Princeton (1-7), then a loss to Wisconsin (16-2).

Game One: Four blasts help ASU blow by Princeton

In her freshmen year, second baseman Bella Loomis hardly showed the power she possessed. Early on in year two as a Sun Devil, she’s hidden nothing of the slugging ability she beholds.

Loomis smashed two home runs in ASU’s 14-5 win over Princeton on Saturday, her fourth home run of the season was a grand slam, followed by a solo home run later in the game for her fifth of 2019. The second basemen finished with a career-high five RBIs against the Tigers.

The second baseman talked about the difference between this year and last:

“I’ve definitely gotten used to the speed of the game, speed of the pitchers, different movements and what they’re trying to throw me,” Loomis said. “I’ve made adjustments early, seeing what they’re throwing other people. For me, it’s just about getting good pitches and staying in my zone.”

Loomis has added a dynamic element to the team’s lineup with her power surge of late from the nine-hole.

“It’s good having her down there,” junior leadoff hitter Kindra Hackbarth said. “Sometimes I wish she was up with us, but I like having her down there, it’s really good for our lineup. She could come up and put a bunt down if she needed to, she just hit two bombs today. The pitchers make mistakes and they underestimate Bella.”

Loomis wasn’t the only Sun Devil to homer against the Tigers. Junior catcher Maddi Hackbarth and senior left fielder Skylar McCarty also had long balls for ASU. Half of ASU’s hits against Princeton were via the home run ball. Although, the amount of hits they had were lower than their first matchup with the Tigers, they walked eight times.

“Our bats came alive, Bella Loomis had a heck of a day,” head coach Trisha Ford said. “She comes ready to play, she’s swinging at pitches that are her pitches, she’s not getting flustered no matter what the count is. She’s doing a good job of staying within herself. She’s starting to really blossom as a player.”

Freshman right-handed pitcher Abby Andersen bounced back after having her worst performance of the season on Friday against No. 9 Texas. Andersen allowed a two-run home run to Princeton senior catcher Keeley Walsh in the first. Although, she found her groove the rest of the way, her day in the circle closed with only four hits and three runs (one earned) given up to Princeton, on her way to her third win.

Game Two: Bats go cold against the Badgers

Runs came with ease against the Tigers, but in the second half of ASU’s doubleheader on Saturday, they struggled at the plate. The combo of Wisconsin’s pitchers; sophomore Haley Hestekin and junior Kaitlyn Menz held ASU to three hits in their 5-1 win over the Sun Devils.

Kindra Hackbarth started the first inning against Hestekin with a single, her 100th hit as a Sun Devil. However, it’d be a long stretch between hits for ASU. Hestekin threw five innings of no-hit ball after Hackbarth’s single before Loomis doubled to start the sixth.

Hestekin received plenty of help from her defense as well. Badger shortstop Lauren Foster snow-coned a line drive off the bat of Maddi Hackbarth to take away a hit. The following inning, left fielder Kelly Walsh dove to rob Kindra Hackbarth of a hit.

“It’s really frustrating, but playing these teams nowadays, they have a lot of stats, video on you,” Kindra Hackbarth said. “So, they know where to pitch you and where to play you, but you have to get around it. It’s really frustrating, but we can’t use it as an excuse, we need to stick to our bat path and hit the ball where they’re not.”

ASU’s lone run came in the sixth after Loomis came home after back-to-back groundouts by Hackbarth and McCarty.

Junior right-handed pitcher Samantha Mejia didn’t have her best day in the circle. The Fresno State transfer lasted two innings and gave up five runs to Wisconsin. Junior right fielder Caroline Hedgcock sent three-run blast to center in the first. The Badgers had a pair of doubles in the second that platted two more runs.

In all four of the Sun Devils’ games over the course of the Sun Devil Classic, they’ve allowed their opponent to score in the first inning or score first.

Ford was asked if it is crucial for ASU to pitch better early in the game:

“Yes,” she said. “I talked to Sam, they know it. It’s just going through it, but our first inning we’ve got to be tighter from the very get-go. I do think we’re capable offensively to comeback from a three-run deficit, even a five-run deficit. And we still haven’t figured out what that DNA looks like and that’s the part that we’re still working through. Our first innings have to tighten up significantly.”

On a positive note for the Sun Devil pitching staff, redshirt junior righty Cielo Meza tossed her best night as a Sun Devil. After winning Big West Pitcher of the Year at Long Beach State a year ago, Meza hadn’t found her stride in Tempe to this point. Although, against the Badgers she stopped the bleeding and gave the ASU bats a chance to comeback. Meza worked five hitless innings and struck out five batters.

“Cielo came in and pitched five great innings for us,” Ford said. “I thought she had better tempo, I thought she had better rhythm and timing. She was aggressive, she was on offense when she was on the mound. So, I thought that was really good that she held her tempo.”

So, how do the Sun Devils get a better result when they closeout the Sun Devil Classic against No. 9 Texas on Sunday? According to Kindra Hackbarth the team needs to change up their mentality.

“It’s all mental, I feel like we’re all in our heads, we were all in our heads this game,” Hackbarth said. “We weren’t making adjustments right away, but we always try to say, ‘we’ll get them next time,’ but there is no next time. We have to stop thinking stop, we have to stop having that in the back of our heads that there’s going to be a next time because there isn’t.

“And just keep getting better. We need to learn from our mistakes. As coach said, we haven’t. We just need to get better.”

First pitch against the Longhorns will be at 12:30 p.m.