There are no easy wins in the Pac-12 conference slate. Sun Devil coach Trisha Ford knew that Sunday’s rubber match with Stanford (23-11, 4-5 Pac-12) was going to be a battle to the last pitch.
She predicted correctly, but her 13th-ranked Arizona State (25-10, 6-6) team came out on top 4-2 and clinched its third straight conference series.
“Conference is hard,” Ford said. “It doesn’t matter who they are, it doesn’t matter if they’re ranked, unranked...It’s a grind...We got punched in the face on Friday...It was huge to see us respond and play our type of game.”
Arizona State played a team game with efforts from nearly everyone.
Ford used the term “cruised” to describe Lindsay Lopez’s effort on Sunday. The lefty pitcher only needed 64 pitches to throw a complete game.
Lopez continued to get the Cardinal hitters to hit weak groundballs on the first pitch of at-bats. On seven different occasions, Stanford hit into an out in one pitch.
Lopez’s final line was her two earned runs on four hits. She surrendered a two-run home run in the seventh to Stanford shortstop Emily Young.
Ford met her pitcher in the circle after she fell behind the next batter, and that got Lopez going again as she retired two straight to end the game.
Stanford failed to produce a station-to-station rally as it did the previous three games. The fourth inning was the only one that saw two baserunners. Alynah Torres ended that by turning a double play to help her pitcher out.
Ford and Lopez knew that adjustments were needed to be made because the Cardinal had seen her already on Friday and Saturday.
“She responded well...Her and I had a good talk today before the game (about) some adjustments to make and spreading the plate out a bit,” Ford said. “She did a much better job commanding the inner half of the plate, which I think got her where she was.”
On the other side, Stanford used three different pitchers, who all gave up a solo home run. Despite Cardinal starter Nikki Bauer trying to work low, Kindra Hackbarth found a pitch to elevate for a leadoff home run.
Jazmine Hill had two more hits that included a third-inning bomb off Gabi Peters.
Maddi Hackbarth continued to close the gap on the program’s single-season home run record. She took Regan Krause deep in the fifth for her 17th of the season, which means she needs four more to break the record.
Bella Loomis drove in the other run. She kept a single inside the right field line to advance Brittany Holland to third. The throw from right field got away from Stanford third baseman Sydney Steele, allowing Holland to score.
Loomis had much better at-bats in the series against Stanford. When she is able to flip the lineup from the nine-spot in the batting order, Arizona State’s offense is generally at its best.
“It’s Bella getting back to herself,” Ford said. “Bella’s swing is really good, but when she starts to chase (pitches), she doesn’t get the results she wants...When she’s at her best she is very selective and she’s gone back to that...She’s been turning the lineup over, giving Kindra (Hackbarth) opportunities for some RBI situations...She hasn’t gotten frustrated, she’s continued to work her way through a slump.”
The Arizona State lineup from top to bottom had good moments on Saturday and Sunday. That momentum will need to continue in the Sun Devils’ upcoming series against Arizona that has the potential to be a slugfest.
“It’s extremely important especially that we’re getting through the middle of Pac (play),” Maddi Hackbarth said. “I think everyone in the lineup is seeing the ball, hitting the ball well. It’s a confidence booster to everybody.”