Arizona State (17-6, 0-3 Pac-12) returns home to Farrington Stadium after a lackluster showing in Los Angeles against UCLA.
The Sun Devil bats have been cooled down during the team’s five-game skid — four runs combined — and it doesn’t get much easier against Washington (22-2, 2-0).
Fresh off a pair of wins against Arizona, the Huskies come to Tempe for Arizona State’s first home conference games.
Just Plain Dominant
UCLA’s Rachel Garcia and Megan Faraimo, two of the nation’s best pitchers, controlled Arizona State’s offense last week. It gets easier right? Well, no.
Washington ace Gabbie Plain will see a lot of the circle this weekend. Plain has come back to her top form following a strange 2020 season.
She comes into the weekend with a 13-0 record, a 0.62 ERA, and 165 strikeouts in 90 innings. Plain only surrendered two earned runs against the stacked Wildcat lineup last week and her 16 strikeouts in the Friday win set a new career-high.
Arizona State has seen Plain three times without a ton of success. A two-run double from former Sun Devil Danielle Gibson back in 2018 fueled an upset of the top-ranked Huskies at the time, but those were the only runs Plain gave up in a 2-1 ASU win.
In 2019, Plain threw a complete game shutout in one game and in the other, Maddi Hackbarth had a home run and a double to push four runs across (only one was earned).
A positive note for Arizona State is that unlike UCLA, there isn’t another All-American sitting in the bullpen.
The pitching behind Plain has been Washington’s biggest weakness. It’s unlikely Heather Tarr will or can use her every inning like she did against Arizona because there is no rain in the forecast to cut the series to two games like it did in Seattle against Arizona.
Former top overall recruit and sophomore Kelley Lynch has the most innings other than Plain, but she has never thrown a pitch in Pac-12 play because of the shortened 2020 season.
She has struggled with free passes, walking 24 batters in 33 innings. Outside of them, none of Brooke Nelson, Sarah Willis and Pat Moore have thrown more than 12 innings this season.
Top Heavy Lineup
A large majority of Washington’s offensive production comes from the top. Sis Bates, one of the best shortstops in the country, if not the best, starts the lineup off and has a batting average of .474.
Directly behind her is Baylee Klinger and Sami Reynolds. That pairing has hit 14 of Washington’s 35 home runs and are first and second in the category for the team.
Outside of them, there has been inconsistency, some due to injuries and availability. Morganne Flores has plenty of power but hasn’t homered in 15 games.
Lynch, who also hits and plays first base a lot, can go deep as well against some of the best. Outside of that core though, there will be plenty of names that will be in the mix.
Sis Bates, Kindra and Maddi Hackbarth have a friendship that goes as far back as one can imagine.
It’s been created through softball and this weekend very well might be the last time the California natives share the field together. For the families and friends, it’s probably been one fun journey watching three All-Americans grow up.
Other Pac-12 notes
- UCLA, fresh off of a four-game sweep of the Sun Devils, looked to finally be clicking as the roster was finally all together. However, the program announced that its series with Cal was canceled due to COVID-19 issues at UCLA. It’ll be interesting how long the Bruins stay away from the field and if the bump in the road changes the postseason outlook.
- Arizona’s offense is looking for answers as well. In March, the Wildcats have had six games against ranked opponents and scored six runs in those games. Barring, all have been on the road, they return home to face Oregon State. Arizona has already beat the Beavers this season but it took eight innings to score three runs and the Wildcats didn’t even face Beaver ace Mariah Mazon.
- Utah and Stanford face off in the other Pac-12 series as Oregon has the non-conference weekend. The Cardinal start their conference season and Utah might be the best team they’ll have faced this season. Meanwhile, Utah is barely over .500 with a 11-9 record, but eight of those losses come from Oregon, UCLA and Arizona State. However, the Utes had a lead on UCLA and was on top of Oregon in three games of the Ducks’ four-game series sweep last week. It should be a good measurement stick for both teams.