It took a sturdy performance in the circle, a couple of timely hits, and one mammoth home run for No. 16 Arizona State (17-7) to take down Lehigh (6-5) on Saturday night at Farrington Stadium.
After two scoreless innings, Lehigh jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a two-out RBI single in the third inning. However, it would be short lived as ASU responded with two runs. They later added a two-run home run, and the rest would be history behind a complete game from redshirt junior pitcher Sam Mejia.
She went the distance without any strikeouts, and she kept hitters off balance to get quick outs. It was a very effective outing.
“I thought Sam did a great job. I thought she made good pitches when she needed to,” head coach Trisha Ford said. “She kept them off balance with her changeup, which was huge and something that she has been working really hard on. For her to give us seven complete innings, I thought she did a tremendous job.”
As for the offensive culprits for ASU, the senior outfield combo of left fielder Skylar McCarty and center fielder Morgan Howe helped the Sun Devils score their first run of the game.
McCarty and Howe had back-to-back doubles in the bottom of the third inning to tie the game at one.
“Thursday night, I said we proved a lot to ourselves and kind of showed not to count ourselves out,” Howe said. “Tonight, I think it was kind of a similar situation. We weren’t down very many...Going into each at-bat and battling every at-bat from batter to batter, I think that’s what we got the most out of tonight.”
After the game was knotted at one, ASU took the lead in the fourth inning on an RBI single from sophomore third baseman Kiara Kennedy. She has continued to swing the bat well in the last few games as she has settled into a spot down on the hot corner.
Kennedy’s knock gave ASU a 2-1 lead, but the knockout blow was an absolute bomb off the bat of junior catcher Maddi Hackbarth. With two strikes in the fifth inning, Hackbarth got a pitch over the plate and turned on it. She crushed it down the left field line and it cleared the scoreboard and the gymnastics facility just beyond the left field wall.
“It definitely felt good. I got all of that ball. I have been getting a lot of information in all my at-bats and just barely missing the ball,” said Hackbarth of her homer. “I have been feeling good, but it’s just little things. Being able to get all of that ball and all of that barrel, it felt good and I am feeling good going into tomorrow.”
The Hackbarth big fly provided all the breathing room ASU needed. Mejia went on to shut things down the rest of the way.
ASU got the win, but Lehigh deserved a fair amount of credit. They made no errors, had five hits, and their pitchers walked just two batters against a discipline and potent Sun Devil batting order.
Lehigh junior pitcher Parker Boyd and freshman pitcher Gabriella Nori threw six innings while accumulating five strikeouts. The Mountain Hawks put forth a well-played ball game, but ASU’s power and talent couldn’t be held quiet the entire time.
The two opponents square off again on Tuesday before ASU begins conference play next Friday against Oregon State.
In a polar opposite game from ASU’s 17-1 route the day prior, Saturday was a much tighter affair, which is something the team will see a lot of once conference play hits.
“It’s good for us to have a close game. That Lehigh team...They are scrappy,” Ford said. “They have put runs on every team that they have played in this tournament. They’ve got some kids on that team, they can triple-threat. They can bunt, they can slap, they can hit with some power. They are scrappy, so for us it’s good to face that type of team and have a good outcome.”