Arizona State’s hitting coach Jeff Harger constantly receives praise for the job he does with the Sun Devil lineup.
Many coaches might’ve told Kindra Hackbarth, who has been in a slump of late, to take the 3-0 pitch. Harger trusted his All-American, giving her the green light, and it paid off.
Hackbarth blasted a two-run home run to put the Sun Devils on the score board. The leadoff hitter was simply getting her offense started.
Arizona State (31-12, 11-7 Pac-12) went on to have a six-run frame in the third. The Sun Devils won 9-6 to clinch another Pac-12 series and win three straight over Oregon (31-12, 9-9).
Oregon’s ace Brooke Yanez continued to struggle as she was leading into the series. Jazmine Hill and Maddi Hackbarth kept the line moving after Kindra Hackbarth’s homer, collecting the third and fourth straight hits off of Yanez.
Yanez finally recorded an out after an aggressive base running decision by ASU. Although, her day ended on the next batter by hitting Yanni Acuna.
Samaria Diaz entered the circle to face a Sun Devil lineup that had clearly awoken. Her first matchup was Makenna Harper, who has had a knack for clutch home runs this season and delivered again. Harper barreled an outside pitch over the fence for a three-run blast.
Yanez gave the ASU bats a tough time the first go-around but similar to Friday’s game, the adjustments were made starting with Kindra Hackbarth.
“He gave me the green light to go for it. I was hunting for that pitch that I was struggling on all weekend,” said Kindra Hackbarth, who also talked about the adjustments made facing Yanez the second time through the order. “Today was faster adjustments because we did what coach Harger told us to do.”
Arizona State’s four-run deficit had turned into a two-run lead in one inning.
“We’re never out of a ballgame,” Maddi Hackbarth said. “Our offense is always going to keep us in it. Our pitching and our defense is going to have our backs as well. We can give up five runs and still come back.”
ASU added three insurance runs in the fifth and sixth innings. Alynah Torres hit her 12th home run of the season. Hill and Maddi Hackbarth each drove in runs in the sixth inning as well. Those two combined for five hits and three RBIs in the win.
Another key factor in the Senior Day victory was true freshman Allison Royalty, who might’ve had her best outing yet.
Oregon clearly had a read on Arizona State starter Lindsay Lopez. In 1.1 innings, the Ducks had five hits, including a two-run homer from Ariel Carlson.
Ford moved quickly and made the change to Royalty, who had a hard time at first. She surrendered a double to Hanna Delgado and another two-run blast to Terra McGowan.
However, she settled in following that. Royalty went the rest of the way, allowing only one earned run in 5.2 innings. The righty hurler picked up five strikeouts. She sat down McGowan and Haley Cruse looking on a pair of nice pitch sequences.
“It’s a whole different mentality when you come in not starting a game. It was just about getting comfortable and knowing that all of my pitches were working,” Royalty said.
For Ford, she thought and hopes Sunday was a glimpse into the future for Arizona State.
“It’s probably the most proud of her I’ve been all year,” Ford said. “She’s pitched some big games but she gutted that (game) out today. She kept fighting and beat them with one pitch...I was proud of her tenacity, her perseverance, and her drive to be great. We got to see Royalty’s insides today, which I think is pretty exciting for the future of ASU softball.”
Arizona State heads to Oregon State (16-23, 3-15 Pac-12) for its last regular season series of the season.
After Sunday, the Sun Devils are in firm position to host a regional that will be announced on May 16. Aside from UCLA, Ford’s team has series wins over the other ranked Pac-12 teams; Arizona, Oregon and Washington.