The No. 11 Arizona Wildcats (26-7, 8-0 Pac-12) looked nearly unstoppable on Saturday. They drove the ball out of the park, snuck base hits between gaps, made every play in the field and pitched well in the circle.
For 17th-ranked Arizona State (25-10, 5-3), the 8-0 loss did more than continue Arizona’s streak of four-straight series victories over the Sun Devils. Arizona State’s spirit had vanished.
After two dominant victories by Arizona, ASU head coach Trisha Ford is looking for her girls.
“I don’t know who this team is, this isn’t our team. We got to fight, we got punched and we didn’t punch back,” Ford said. “This is the first time we haven’t done that this year. It’s a ‘gut check’ right now. I want them to feel this and come out tomorrow ready to go. It’s a pride factor, it’s not about our effort or our ability to stick to our plan, we’re not executing it.”
ASU’s bats made a lot more contact against the Wildcat starter, junior righty Alyssa Denham. It made no difference on the scoreboard. The Sun Devils were held scoreless once again and repeated the effort of two hits.
One Sun Devil batter that looked like herself was senior center fielder Morgan Howe. Howe singled in the first inning, but got no further than first. In her second at-bat that followed Denham’s walks to senior third baseman Taylor Becerra and junior right fielder Kindra Hackbarth, Howe had a chance to put ASU on the board for the first time all weekend. She stung the pitch she got from Denham, however, the line drive went straight into senior first baseman Rylee Pierce’s glove to end the frame.
“Mo’s [ball], if she hits that ball [and] it gets past Rylee at first base that a couple of runs. She smoked that ball,” Ford said. “And sometimes when things are going hard, that’s what is going to happen. When things are going good you get those Texas leaguers, bloop singles and fisters, it’s just not happening right now.”
Ford said she didn’t know what has occurred in the box for the offense ranked as the nation’s best when the weekend started. She pointed that the team had ventured away from their plan.
Meanwhile, the Arizona bats hadn’t slowed up. Six base hits in the first two innings netted four runs for the Cats. The third inning contained the two homers that broke the game open. Junior center fielder Alyssa Palomino sent out her 11th blast of the season, later sophomore left fielder Hannah Martinez hit her first career home run in the form of a two-run shot.
Junior Cielo Meza relieved starter Abby Andersen over the Cats got to eight runs. Meza, who has had her share of struggled this season has looked solid the past two days in a limited sample size.
“She’s come in and competed,” Ford said. “Her ball is moving, I think her velocity is good. I think she’s done a great job of coming in and shutting [down] the bleeding. For me, she’s progressing well and I’m excited.”
The Sun Devils will try to salvage the series with a Sunday win at 4:00 p.m. at Rita Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium. The game can be seen on ESPN2.
Ford had a simple message to her team in regards to Sunday.
“I want to see who you are.”