From the moment she stepped onto the field at Farrington Stadium for potentially the last series of her Sun Devil career, center fielder Morgan Howe set the attitude of the contest. Cal’s leadoff hitter, senior shortstop Lindsay Rood blooped the fifth pitch of the game toward center, the ball destined to hit the grass, landed in the sliding Howe’s glove.
From that point on it, the Sun Devils controlled it. With the contribution of Howe’s two hits, a pair of walks and a RBI from the top of the lineup, Arizona State (29-17, 9-10 Pac-12) extended their winning streak to four.
“I definitely think it set the tone for the game,” said Howe on her diving grab. “It could’ve gone either way. That could’ve fallen and that’s momentum for them, but it got caught and that’s good for us.”
A weekend filled with distractions; senior weekend and third baseman Taylor Becerra’s career-ending injury, ASU head coach Trisha Ford was extremely pleased with her team’s mindset in their 7-2 victory against Cal (26-26, 4-11).
“It says a lot, for me, I always say quit being emotional. This is your opportunity to go out here and kick some you know what. The emotion part you can think about later, but it’s time to play ball. I think they did a very good job of keeping that mindset,” she said. “They need to come out here and play games. We don’t have time to think about it.”
Two three-run frames were the majority of the offense for the Sun Devils. The second inning fueled by power hitting included Howe’s RBI single. Sophomore second baseman Bella Loomis and junior right fielder Kindra Hackbarth also drive in runs. The frame also featured a stolen base from Loomis and aggressive baserunner all around.
A night with no home runs is an oddity for ASU when they are scoring a high amount. As Howe mentioned postgame, the game plan was simple, just put the ball in play and try to take another bag. Cal entered the series second-to-last in the conference in fielding position sparked the idea.
Loomis’ stolen base was one of six for the Sun Devils. Howe finished with three, Hackbarth added another and freshman pinch runner Olivia Miller also had one. During the week, the team prepared for Cal’s pitchers Zoe Conley and Kamalani Dung to hit dirt a lot with their changeups. And the Sun Devils executed perfectly.
The other big inning for ASU came in the fifth thanks to Cal’s poor defense. An errant throw from the Golden Bears third baseman Karlee Sparacino on a groundball off the bat of Kiara Kennedy allowed Jade Gotarez to score and advanced Kennedy to third. Kennedy later scored on a sac-fly. Howe scored as well in the inning after she reached via a walk and came in on an error from Cal’s second baseman Jordan Fines.
Cielo Meza started and finished for ASU in the circle. Her statline of eight hits and two runs isn’t the cleanest for a complete game. Although, six strikeouts and a few double plays helped Meza strand eight Cal runners to escape multiple jams.
“It’s a matter of trusting my stuff — today wasn’t even my best stuff,” Meza said. “I figured out how to get a win for this team. Especially when I’m not on, I put all my trust into the defense — it’s a team sport.”
ASU will attempt to clinch the series on Saturday from Farrington Stadium at 1:00 p.m. and the game can be seen on the Pac-12 Networks.