Usually when teams let opponents stick around too long, regardless of sport, it is a recipe for disaster.
Trisha Ford’s (8) ASU Softball team looked to be headed into the eye of the storm on Saturday night in the seventh inning at Farrington Stadium. The Sun Devils had already lost their multi-run cushion when (9) Northwestern reared its head one last time at an attempt to knock ASU out of the tournament.
Up 4-3 and with the tying run on first, ASU was an out away from forcing game three, a task in which they would ultimately succeed in a 7-4 victory, but not without a few skipped heartbeats.
Lindsay Lopez delivered a one-out strike that was driven deep to centerfield by Maeve Nelson. Jazmine Hill looked like she was camped under the ball on the warning track, but it fell just beyond her outstretched glove and off the wall. Hill was awarded an error, and the game was tied with the winning run on third.
In one split-second, elation turned into gasps.
But Lopez buckled down, stranding Nelson on third and forcing a fly-out to center. Hill redeemed herself, and free softball was signaled in Tempe.
It wouldn’t take long for ASU, the “away” team for game two, to build up another mulit-run lead.
Jessica Puk roped a two-out double to keep the eighth inning alive. Ford then made the decision to send Kristiana Watson to the plate in-place of Bella Loomis, who was 0-for-3 on the evening. Alynah Torrez forced a fielder’s choice that drove in the go-ahead run, then Yannira Acuña added insurance with an RBI double. Makenna Harper walked in another to extend the Sun Devil lead to 7-4.
Lopez would take care of business in the bottom half, snagging a hard comebacker for the third out and the victory.
Hill’s seventh-inning error should not overshadow her performance offensively, going 4-for-5 with four RBI.
“After missing the ball, that stung a little because I hate letting my team down,” she said. “But I just love our girls so much and the chemistry we all have because after that everyone was just like ‘Jaz, we got you, don’t even worry.’ So that meant a lot for me, I just love our girls so much.”
Puk (2-for-3) was the only other Sun Devil with multiple hits. Hill’s three-run homer in the fifth broke a 1-1 tie and cranked the volume up at Club Farrington.
Allison Royalty received the start in the circle, 2 1⁄3 innings, allowing no earned runs (one unearned), walking three and striking out three. Lindsay Lopez earned the win and went the rest of the distance in relief. Two of her three runs allowed were earned.
“Last season, I always felt like I came in midgame,” Lopez said. “So I was familiar with it and that feeling of getting into my zone and being comfortable with myself.”
The series-finale with a College World Series birth on the line will take place at 6:30 pm MST Sunday night at Farrington Stadium.