For the fifth straight game, Arizona State (25-13, 5-6 Pac-12) was shut out against a top-10 opponent.
No. 1 UCLA (34-1, 8-0 Pac-12) put forth a 9-0 victory in six innings against the Sun Devils on Saturday afternoon at Farrington Stadium.
Although the Devils still possess one of the most high-powered offenses in the country, their bats have been tied up by two very strong Pac-12 arms over the last week.
Saturday was no different against UCLA redshirt junior pitcher Rachel Garcia. Garcia went six innings while allowing three hits and striking out 12.
“She has a lot of pitches and we know...We know she is good,” said junior right fielder Kindra Hackbarth. “She was (Pac-12) Player of the Year last year and we know she is good. She knows how to mix speeds and it’s just challenging to stay off the rise ball.
It looks like a cookie coming in but it’s just going to jump over your hands. It’s a battle staying off her back door (pitches) because you know it’s going to keep going out of the zone, and she has a changeup. You just have to sit on one pitch.”
Garcia’s full repertoire was on display on Saturday as she continued to paint corners throughout the game. And although the score may not indicate it, ASU had its opportunities early on against the power arm. The team put runners on in each of their first five innings.
The Devils continued to work counts and get runners in scoring position, but the one big hit to break things open seemed to elude them.
“We had better at-bats early on and we had a lot more people on,” said head coach Trisha Ford. “...From an offensive standpoint, I thought there were some good things and some good at-bats. It’s just that our luck isn’t going our way. We are going to get some of those Texas Leaguers real quick here.”
One of those aforementioned scenarios that Ford alluded to occurred in the first inning. After senior center fielder Morgan Howe worked a leadoff walk to start the game, Hackbarth hit a low liner that looked like it was bound to drop for a hit. However, UCLA freshman outfielder Kelli Godin robbed it with a diving catch.
What appeared to be a promising start turned into just an afterthought of what could have been.
ASU also had an opportunity with two runners on in the fourth, but Garcia continued to rise to the occasion in big spots.
As for the pitching, the biggest struggle was keeping UCLA in the park. The Bruins had four home runs, including two from sophomore outfielder Aaliyah Jordan. Senior third baseman Taylor Pack also had three hits and three RBI’s.
With seven walks, the circle was one area where Ford looked to improve.
“They are a lethal lineup but we left some balls over the plate that they took advantage of,” Ford said. “Our walks hurt us again today so that part of the game, we need to get better. I didn’t think we stepped in the right direction. There was some big moments and then just some where we didn’t execute.”
Following a series loss to UCLA, the Devils will look to salvage a game and avoid getting swept at home for the first time since 2017.
Although the last five games have been tough for ASU, the spirits still seemed high after Saturday’s loss. The team finds themselves in a brutal slate of games, with three straight series’ against top-10 teams, and the Devils seem to embrace the challenge, regardless of the outcome.
Garcia has an ERA under .50 and she showcased why she is one of the most elite pitchers in the country on Saturday against ASU.
The Devils will look to snap a five-game skid tomorrow in the midst of a tough stretch of games.
“As a hitter, if you have a good at-bat against her, I feel like you can face just about anybody,” said Ford of facing Garcia. “That’s kind of the other thing...It will only get easier after this, easier, as long as we stay focused. That’s going to be the key...I told them we are going to be able to grow from this, but we are also going to be able to pull from these last two series’, and we are going to pull from this later on in the season to really help us through some things.”