In the biggest moments — even the wacky, unexplainable ones — a team looks to its star to step up. Kindra Hackbarth did just that for Arizona State (18-6, 1-3 Pac-12) on Friday night.
Hackbarth, who had doubled and advanced to third on an overthrow of a cut off, represented the game-winning run on third base in the seventh inning as her powerful twin sister, Maddi, stepped up the plate.
The Sun Devils decided to try a squeeze bunt that Maddi Hackbarth didn’t make contact on. Hackbarth got caught up at third and it turned into a rundown.
As Kindra Hackbarth retreated to third and Jazmine Hill soon approached third base as well, Washington shortstop Sis Bates tagged Hackbarth, who was safe by rule that it is her bag.
Hill raced back toward second and Hackbarth headed home to send her team to a 5-4 win over No. 6 Washington (22-3, 2-1) on a wild play to win it.
Bates made a heroic effort that came up short and the play left Washington coach Heather Tarr disgruntled with the umpiring crew after the game, but it was the correct call and certainly a play built off of Hackbarth’s speed and chaos on the base paths.
“She’s the heartbeat of our program,” Arizona State coach Trisha Ford said. “..I always feel like if we have Kindra up with the game on the line, I’m feeling good...Kindra is a tremendous baserunner. There was no panic in her during the rundown.”
NEVER GIVE UP ON A PLAY pic.twitter.com/4kO8AtHk1P— Sun Devil Softball (@ASUSoftball) March 27, 2021
Hackbarth led by example as well at the plate. The All-American leadoff hitter went 3-for-4, with her lone out being a line drive right to Washington second baseman Baylee Klingler.
It felt like her first hit, only the second off Washington ace Gabbie Plain, really put back some confidence in the lineup that had struggled against UCLA the week prior.
“I was feeling a lot more confident, especially coming off last weekend,” Kindra Hackbarth said. “I felt more into myself and putting the past in the past to move forward...I was feeling good.”
Plain entered the night having surrendered more than one run once in her 19 appearances thus far this season. She had shut down Arizona State’s offense for three innings, but Hackbarth’s third-inning single seemed to spark a bit of hope into the lineup.
Maddi Hackbarth forced a walk to start the fourth inning and Alynah Torres singled on a high chopper over Plain’s head that to put runners on the corners with no outs.
Alli Tatnall grounded out to bring in one and Makenna Harper then lined her second single off of Plain to cut Washington’s lead to two.
The confidence was back and the All-American pitcher appeared vulnerable to Arizona State. Bella Loomis forced a walk after an eight-pitch at-bat and advanced on a Kindra Hackbarth single the following inning.
Hill stepped up to the plate having struck out against Plain in her two previous at-bats. Although similar to her teammates, this at-bat was much better than the last. She fouled a few off and didn’t bite at the outside pitch that had did her in previously.
She worked the count and Plain’s 3-2 pitch caught too much of the plate. Hill sent it to the right field wall to knot the game at four. It was the first time all season that the Husky star pitcher had given up more than two runs.
“Gabbie is a great pitcher and those first two at-bats were tough on me mentally,” Hill said. “My biggest thing in the third at-bat was to breath and control it, to zone in on the ball low and hitting that pitch.”
Following the extra-inning loss to open the UCLA series, Arizona State lost its fight the rest of the weekend. Having that scrappy mentality has been a standard in the Ford era, and it was unlike the team to go down without a fight through the rest of the weekend.
Coming back from a four-run deficit against one of the nation’s best pitchers made the tough conversations during practice this past week worth it.
“We felt defeated and you could see it in their play...We harped about it all week long to love the fight,” Ford said. “I thought we did a really good job of responding, taking information in from our first at-bats and making adjustments moving forward.”
Freshmen Allison Royalty and Lindsay Lopez provided the offense an opportunity to come back due to their efforts in the circle as well. Royalty relived starter Cielo Meza after she had allowed three two-out singles in the first and a solo home run to Noelle Hee.
Royalty had a few battles she won against Bates and talented catcher Morganne Flores that ended in strikeouts. She stayed out of trouble for the most part other than the fourth inning.
A single and two walks on nine pitches loaded the bases with no outs for the Huskies in that fourth frame. It appeared Royalty might’ve come out unscathed following two of her five strikeouts to Madison Huskey and Plain. However, Bates had other plans.
The star shortstop laid off and fouled two outside pitches that Royalty had used to strike her out in their previous matchup. As the freshman hurler tried going more inside, Bates laced a ball up the middle to plate a pair of runs and cap off a quality at-bat.
Bates later had a chance to give her team back the lead in the top of the sixth. The go-ahead run stood at second base with two outs and Ford decided to bring in Lopez. The decision worked as Bates bounced one backed to Lopez to end the inning.
“Royalty came in and kept us in the ballgame. Lindsay came in and did what she’s been doing and stayed relax and executed,” Ford said. “That’s what we are asking..at the end of the day that’s what matters is that we get a (win). It doesn’t really matter how it looks.”
Washington will be looking for revenge on Saturday as the teams will play a doubleheader with the first contest starting at 2 p.m. local time.