Up until Sunday, Arizona State hasn’t felt a ton of tough times in its 2021 season. When Sun Devil coach Trisha Ford handed the ball to her veteran Cielo Meza in a tough spot in the sixth inning, she had hoped for a better response.
Instead, Baylor took advantage of five free passes and scored six runs in the frame on its way to a 7-2 win in Tempe.
After a pair of bunt singles to start the inning, Ford opted to put Meza in for Lindsay Lopez, who threw well versus the Lady Bears. Meza simply lacked control in her outing.
She forced the first batter to pop up, but then walked, hit, and walked the next three batters, allowing Baylor to tie the game and then take the lead.
Allison Royalty proceeded to come into the circle. She had her own trouble and allowed a pair of runs as well. A single and a strange double in which Baylor slapper Maddison Kettler beat an outfield shift, extended the lead to five.
That sixth inning was by far the worse Arizona State has had this season, but as the team heads into conference play, it might not be the worst thing for the Sun Devils.
“Things just unraveled rather quickly,” Ford said. “That’s the part we need to address. That can’t happen. We need to be able to stop the bleeding. We just didn’t make the adjustments we needed to make.”
Kindra Hackbarth was essentially the offense. She led the game off with a walk and followed it by stealing second and third. She’d later score on a groundout. Hackbarth then singled up the middle to bring home the other run and end the day for Baylor starter Gia Rodoni.
However, Rodoni’s replacement found a lot of success. Aliyah Binford entered the game with her back against the wall.
The bases were loaded for Jazmine Hill and Maddi Hackbarth. Binford won both battles and cruised for most of the game. She threw 5.2 innings, allowing four hits and striking out four.
“I didn’t think we made adjustments quick enough,” Maddi Hackbarth said. “We just weren’t sticking with it. She threw hard and she threw a changeup and off speed out, and we couldn’t make an adjustment. We kept pulling and left many runners on early in the game and I think that’s what hurt us.”
Maddi Hackbarth also mentioned a lack of energy on Sunday. There shouldn’t be a lack of energy when Arizona State starts the ever-competitive Pac-12 play by starting at the defending national champions UCLA Bruins on March 19.
“I’m excited. I think the team’s excited,” Hackbarth said. “I know the freshman from last year and the freshman this year are very excited. It’s their first time playing in the Pac-12. They’re going to see what it’s about. I always say in the past and I will continue to say, I think the Pac-12 is the best competition in college softball, and I think that this year is going to be fun...What better team to start with than UCLA?”