Jazmine Hill lifted a ball toward the wall. Every fan’s eyes inside Farrington Stadium glued to see the distance of it. It was close, just not close enough. Tennessee center fielder Kiki Milloy camped under it near the wall for the out.
Hill’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh was nearly a game-tying grand slam. No. 23 Arizona State (4-2) was a few feet from multiple big innings but never was able to put one fully together in Monday night’s 8-5 loss to No. 12 Tennessee (3-1).
The Sun Devils ended up leaving 10 runners on base compared to the Volunteers’ three.
“We needed that hit, we needed that ball out of the infield,” said Arizona State Head Coach Trisha Ford about the need for a clutch hit. “We had based loaded and we only scored one run, that’s going to the difference in the game.”
Of course the Sun Devils had the bases loaded in their seventh-inning rally, but they did as well fifth and sixth. After falling behind by four runs, the offense finally had something going in the fifth. Second baseball Bella Loomis came up with bases full and no outs. She ended up hitting into a double play but at least help bring in a run for the Sun Devils. Catcher Maddi Hackbarth followed with a hard hit single down the line to pull Arizona State within two.
They did it again the following frame. Left fielder Yannira Acuña dropped in a single in an another bases loaded opportunity for the Sun Devils. With the gates open to take the lead for the first time, Loomis and center fielder Kindra Hackbarth, the Sun Devils’ best hitter came up. Tennessee’s Anna Hazelwood pulled through to get both tough outs and maintain her team’s lead.
The momentum had clearly swung back to the Vols in the top of the seventh. Tennessee finally got to Sun Devil lefty Madison Preston. Preston, who had nearly been perfect all weekend for Arizona State, finally hit a rough patch. A few walks, a passed ball, a hard hit double and finally a two-run home run by Amanda Ayala capped off the four-run inning dagger from Tennessee.
Preston’s performance over the weekend shouldn’t be overlooked because of one bad frame. Although it did leave her wanting more out of herself.
“I feel really good, but the thing is I’m not satisfied, I know my teach isn’t either and I know my coach isn’t,” Preston said. “I feel like we need to keep pushing. We need to take the good and the bad from this weekend and apply it to the rest of the season.”
Ford had a similar mindset to the team in general that certain things still need to improve.
“I think we’re going to continue to get better and better,” Ford said. “We have a lot to work on and I think we did a lot of things well. Just kinda grow from there.”
Arizona State will open the Littlewood Classic on Friday with a doubleheader against Illinois State and No. 10 Kentucky.