The Sun Devils are as hot as a pistol right now.
Sitting in second place in the Pac-12, and ranked 16th in the country, Arizona State (25-5, 6-0 Pac-12) is about to take on their first Top-20 opponent when they face 12th ranked Oregon (24-8, 4-5) in Eugene this weekend.
The Ducks are looking to shake off a tough series where they were swept in three games by fourth-ranked UCLA (31-3, 9-0). Some inconsistent pitching has slightly derailed them over the last two weeks, giving up five or more runs in six of their last ten games, which have all been in-conference.
Hitters to look out for in this series consist of Hannah Delgado putting the ball in play and swiping bases, some power from Ariel Carson and Vallery Wong, and good at bats from Allee Bunker.
ASU has started conference play undefeated through the first six games against Oregon State and Arizona, respectively. Prior to that, they’d won eight straight.
With a little bit of math, that equals 14 games in a row; and they have all three phases clicking.
Phase one: the offense
The offense has been nothing short of consistent. They’ve scored eight runs or more in eight of their last ten games and the powerhouse duo, senior outfielder Yannira Acuña and freshman phenom, Cydney Sanders have been the most repetitive with their production.
The two have been dominating at the plate, with a combined batting average of .481, 19 home runs, 64 RBI, and are slugging at a clip just over 1.000. In the final game of the Arizona series, they each had two hits, a homer and two RBI.
They’re near the top of the conference in average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Through the first 30 games, the top five hitters in the order are batting over .300, and have on-base percentages all over .400.
Junior center fielder Jazmine Hill struggled against Arizona, but was coming off of a strong rubber game against Oregon State (29-8, 5-4) going 2-for-3 with two RBI. She’s batting .352 on the year (which is her career average).
The Mizzou transfer, Jazmyn Rollin has done some heavy lifting with her .879 slugging percentage with 10 homers to go along with it.
Getting on base, driving in runs. It’s been a common theme in a season where keeping pace with teams like UCLA will be a heck of a task. While speed may not be a prominent part of the offensive mindset with just 13 steals this year, the balls have been jumping off the bats of Sun Devil hitters so far.
Phases two and three: pitching and defense
Besides for the six runs let up in the extra-inning win against Oregon State, the pitching for ASU has been exactly what the doctor ordered. The combination of Marissa Shuld, Mac Morgan and Lindsay Lopez rolled over Arizona last week only allowing two runs the entire series.
Shuld has been a star in her first season in maroon and gold. She hasn’t allowed more than one run since February, she’s got 77 strikeouts in just 55.2 innings pitched.
Pitching to a collective 1.89 ERA as a pitching staff, the Sun Devils are Top-15 in the country in the category.
Morgan and Lopez have given up a few more runs than usual in their last few outings, but there have been way more ones and zeros in the run column than not. They’ve combined for 20 wins so far this season. When the offense is as good as ASU’s has been, two or three runs here and there isn’t worth batting an eyelash.
The matchup against the Ducks should be highly competitive. Oregon is going to be hungry for wins after what happened against UCLA, and Arizona State is primed to get into the conversation to make a run in May.
The Sun Devils are 34-24 all time against Oregon, and they’ll look to add three more in the win column this weekend on the road.
If ASU can keep the bats hot and the pitching consistent, their climb through the national ranks may be a bit more rapid against a highly ranked opponent in the Ducks.
First pitch is 5:00 MST on ESPN2 (yes, national coverage!)