Alli Tatnall stepped into the box oblivious to the fact that the game-winning run stood at first base. She made solid contact with a pitch from Utah’s Chantelle Ladner, Hailey Hilburn dove toward Tatnall’s liner, but it skipped past to her and rolled to the left field wall at Farrington Stadium. At that moment, Tatnall’s teammates knew what she didn’t, she had just won the game for Arizona State (25-8, 5-1 Pac-12.)
The Sun Devils swarmed and paraded around Tatnall at third base, her triple completed a nine-run comeback in the bottom of the seventh to sweep Utah (13-17, 2-4) on Sunday.
“It was definitely surprising. Honestly, I thought I was the winning-run,” Tatnall said. “So I was still running and going around third and then I see everyone jumping towards me. That was unbelievable, it was great.”
For Tatnall, the moment was pretty special. The junior designated player does a lot of dirty work for the 18th-ranked Arizona State. She’s the leader of the dugout shenanigans, she catches bullpens for pitchers at practice and helps coaches during pregame warm ups.
“Happy for her. Alli, we’ve talked about her a little bit throughout this year, especially how much she’s helped our team,” ASU head coach Trisha Ford said. “Whether it be in the bullpens, baserunning, and obviously hitting wise. She’s just done a great job for us and being such a great teammate. I think the game knows, really happy for her and I hope she enjoys this.”
Tatnall established herself as the hero of Sunday, however, the production of the Hackbarth twins can’t be overlooked.
Junior catcher Maddi Hackbarth drilled a solo shot to start the nine-run seventh. She had homered twice before that at-bat to put her season total at 16. In the fifth inning, the Sun Devils were on the verge of being run-ruled. A two-RBI double from junior shortstop Jade Gortarez, followed by a two-run blast by Hackbarth kept ASU alive.
The fifth-inning home run displayed a lot of Hackbarth’s emotional leadership. A symbol that at any deficit, the Sun Devils believed they still had a chance.
“Each one of us brings a certain amount of energy, I’m happy I can bring a lot. That second home run [was] definitely a momentum changer,” Hackbarth said. “Just to get my team my team fired up in that way is incredible.”
After second baseman Bella Loomis popped up, the Sun Devils were an out away from defeat. Instead, junior right fielder Kindra Hackbarth started the streak of seven straight ASU batters to reach and she did it in style. She sent out a three-run bomb to cut the Ute lead down to four. It was also her second homer of the contest and put the twin round tripper total at five for Sunday.
“I knew they were special,” said Ford on Hackbarths. “Both of them play the game the right way. I knew there was some of good juice in them and when things didn’t work out for them at Fresno [State] and they weren’t playing, I knew we had a spot for them. I know their DNA, I know they come here ready to play and that’s something I love.”
The Sun Devils that followed Kindra Hackbarth, all reached via a free pass with the exception of Gortarez, who doubled again to bring in another run. The Utes decided to intentional walk and avoid the chance at a fourth Maddi Hackbarth bomb, sophomore DeNae Chatman also walked to set up the glorious moment for Tatnall.
Ford talked about how the extraordinary occasion creates a memory for a team that’s had an emotional offseason.
“It shows who we are, it shows what we’re building here,” she said. “Yeah we don’t have all the pieces maybe every single day, but they fight. That’s what is most important, it’s about this process, this program, you know like I said, we can put runs up on anybody. We just have to be competitive in that circle. When we get crazy good in that circle, and we continue to hit like we’re hitting we’re going to be hard to deal with.
“I love the fact that they know that, they know that they just need to keep working. For me, it’s a great moment of them for them to really come together and just kind of say screw it to everything, go out here and play our game.”
The Devils have now won five straight Pac-12 games and will head to Tucson for a battle with rival, No. 11 Arizona, who has an undefeated conference record. The series opener will take place on Friday at 4:00 p.m. from Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium.