Maddi Hackbarth made sure her voice was heard all week long on social media that this series against Arizona was going to be different than previous years. The fifth-year senior had her chance to live up to her talk on Sunday.
Following a long at-bat by Jazmine Hill that ended in a single, Hackbarth needed one swing to give the Sun Devils their first conference sweep against Arizona (27-8, 6-5 Pac-12) since 2012.
The catcher lined one over the third base bag and the always aggressive third base coach Jeff Harger never hesitated sending Hill to the plate. She slide in safely and Arizona State (28-11, 9-6) won 4-3 in extra innings.
“I’m feeling like I’m on cloud nine right now,” Hackbarth said following the walk-off double. “I’m very excited to be a part of this program and come out to play softball. Going into my last at-bat, I knew what I was going to get. I tried to keep it simple, have some fun, get a good pitch and put a barrel on it.”
Arizona center fielder Janelle Meono, aided by the breeze blowing in at Farrington Stadium, robbed Hackbarth of what would’ve been her 19th home run of the season in the sixth inning and an all important insurance run for the Sun Devils.
With Arizona State’s lead was still at one, the veteran Wildcat bats took advantage of the opportunity.
Second baseman Reyna Carranco singled to right field and advanced to second on an error. All-American and Team USA catcher Dejah Mulipola made her biggest impact of the series, doubling in the tying run with two outs to tie the game.
Lindsay Lopez then struck out Jessie Harper looking on another changeup to strand Mulipola to end the innning. She kept Arizona quiet in the eighth as well, allowing Hackbarth another chance to put her team on top.
Arizona’s pitcher, Hanah Bowen, had another solid outing against the Sun Devils’ lineup on Sunday. Before Hackbarth’s hard hits, DeNae Chatman was the lone ASU player to find success against the right-hander.
Through her career, Chatman’s biggest goal at the plate is to be on time. She perfectly timed Bowen’s mid-60s MPH pitches twice for a pair of home runs.
Chatman’s second-inning blast put two runs on the board and gave Arizona State the lead again in the fourth with a solo shot.
“For me, since I’ve been struggling, I decided I was going to swing hard no matter what was happening,” said Chatman, who homered for the first time since March 6.
Chatman’s performance continued the trend over the entire weekend that had numerous different Sun Devils finding ways to contribute offensively.
In the circle, Allison Royalty and Lopez delivered for head coach Trisha Ford again as well.
Royalty started for the third time and featured a different game plan to attack Arizona’s hitters and keep them off balance.
She appeared to get more swing-and-misses than her previous two outings, including a nice sequence against Hannah “Peanut” Martinez to end the top of the second inning.
“After every showing, you start to get a feel if they’re onto your pitches or not. I never felt that they were comfortable,” Royalty said. “I knew that I had to watch film after every game to find ways to keep them uncomfortable and on their toes. As a pitching staff, I thought we did a really great job of that.”
Arizona’s only success against Royalty came from Malia Martinez’s two-run home run in the fourth.
Royalty had a first-pitch strike wiped away because of an illegal pitch call. That changed the at-bat for the Wildcat third baseman and Royalty had to pitch at her after falling behind in the count.
Overall on the weekend, the youthful ASU pitching duo held Arizona to a combined seven runs in three games.
“Lindsay is making big pitches in big situations and really growing up in front of our eyes,” Ford said. “The other thing Lindsay does is she’s very inviting and she’s helped (Royalty) and Royalty has really taken to Lindsay. The both of them really feel like they’re a good one-two punch. When you get buy-in like that, you get special things (to) happen.”
Arizona State’s wins serve as a huge boost to its chances of hosting a regional, which will be determined by the selection committee at the end of April.
The Sun Devils are scheduled to head to Cal for their next series. However, the Golden Bears program went on a COVID-19 pause and canceled their series with Stanford this weekend.
Ford said that they haven’t looked into a backup plan if Cal was unable to play, and the likelihood would be to take the weekend off in that situation.