How do you respond to your first loss in nearly 50 days?
With a win, of course.
The Sun Devils (32-6, 13-1 Pac-12) gifted head coach Trisha Ford with her 200th career win at ASU on Saturday afternoon in California in game two against Stanford (30-13, 7-7) by a score of 3-1.
Friday was supposed to be the night where Arizona State nabbed their 21st consecutive victory all while getting coach Ford to a very impressive milestone in her career.
Alas, in softball, sometimes the bounces don’t go your way. Besides for the Cydney Sanders solo blast in the first inning, that was the case for ASU. They had their chances to score several times, but just couldn’t cash in.
It happens, even if there’s almost two months in between those kinds of games.
Even the best teams lose, but it’s always about the next day to find out who they are as a unit. So, it was extremely important for the Sun Devils to bounce back Saturday.
Junior pitcher, Lindsay Lopez, made sure to give her team every opportunity to do exactly that. Lopez tossed a gem, and she battled for it. Besides for an unearned run on an Alynah Torres error in the fifth inning, Lopez’s day consisted of pounding the zone with strikes, getting soft contact, and getting out of mini-jams.
Stanford couldn’t seem to find an answer for Lopez’s aggressive attack on the mound. Out of her 78 pitches in the game, 62 were for strikes. She only had one strikeout against a solid Cardinal lineup, but it was the effectiveness of her pitches that really held the opposition to just one run.
Stanford left six runners on base, highlighted by the failure to keep their fifth inning rally going with a two-out pop to Jessica Puk to retire the side. Lopez stepped up for ASU in a big way, earning her seventh win in her sixth complete game of the season. This start dropped her ERA down to 1.32 on the year.
Despite the clutch performance from their pitcher, it was another slow day for the offense. Two-thirds of the runs came on one big swing by Alynah Torres in the third inning, and the other on a sacrifice fly by Bella Loomis the very next inning.
The Sun Devils had several chances to break the game open, however. The Sun Devils did a great job of forcing the opposing pitching’s hand with some tough at bats. They collected five walks and four hit-by-pitches in this game, putting runners on in all seven frames.
The fourth and fifth innings were the real opportunities to do damage.
Already up 2-0, ASU had the bases juiced with no outs. Loomis’ previously mentioned sac-fly put another run on the board, and the other runners advanced to second and third with one away. Torres followed up with a pop out to the shortstop, Puk walked immediately after, and Sanders couldn’t find open grass on a fly out to right field to end the inning. Three runners were stranded.
In the fifth, the Sun Devils had runners on first and second with one out. Coach Ford decided to pinch-hit for back-to-back hitters, bringing Kristiana Watson and Mailey McLemore up to bat. Watson proceeded to strike out in a 3-2 count, and McLemore flew out to right to end the opportunity.
It may not have been the prettiest of their 32 wins on the season, but it was certainly an important one for their season. Trisha Ford’s legacy at ASU will be that of a winner, with a record of 200-79.
In order to cement that legacy, Arizona State needs to go on a deep run into the Super Regionals, and hopefully, the chance to go to Oklahoma City to play for a national championship.
Bounceback wins like this one against a formidable Stanford opponent should reinforce the fact that this ASU team really means business, if their previous 20 straight W’s weren’t enough already.
The rubber match of the three-game set will be played today at 12:00 MST and will be available via live-stream on Pac-12.com.