Sophomores star on Saturday
Sophomores Jazmine Hill and Alynah Torres played the heroes in No. 13 Arizona State softball’s (24-10, 5-6 Pac-12) doubleheader wins over Stanford (23-10, 4-4) on Saturday.
Alynah Torres and the rest of the Sun Devil faithful watched the ball sail over the center field fence at Farrington Stadium. Underneath the roars of the crowd for the go-ahead grand slam was Torres’ sigh of relief.
Coming into Saturday, Torres had struggled in her first bout with Pac-12 conference play. She had only collected five hits and had a .152 batting average thus far. When her team needed her most, she blasted a grand slam in the sixth inning that led to the Sun Devils’ 10-6 win to even the conference series with Stanford.
“It was such a relief,” Torres said. “I try to go day by day, pitch by pitch and pretend every day is opening day…I’m happy I could contribute to the team today and all that matters at the end of the day is that we got the (win).”
Torres flew out to center the first time she faced Stanford pitcher Maddy Dwyer, on a ball that she didn’t get enough barrel on. She then singled up the middle later in the game. When Torres came up against Dwyer in a huge moment, she felt confident.
“I was seeing her well today,” Torres said. “I honestly went with a new mindset, last at-bat I was up 2-0 and I probably shouldn’t have swung at that pitch. Next at-bat the mentality was see ball, hit ball and swing at a strike.”
The Cardinal’s starter Regan Krause didn’t last long, and it wasn’t because of her pitch quality. She did allow a two-run homer to Maddi Hackbarth, who sat on an off-speed to send out her 16th blast of the season.
Krause’s issue was constant illegal pitches from crow hops that led to walks of Kindra Hackbarth and Torres. Stanford coach Jessica Allister tried to make her case to the umpire crew but ultimately had to make a change in the circle.
Jazmine Hill and Bella Loomis also had nice days at the plate despite cold stretches of late. Loomis walked to flip the lineup over. She zoomed in the score from first on Hill’s double taking advantage of the Stanford left fielder knocking the ball away on a dive.
Loomis singled in a run to add more insurance in the sixth.
Yanni Acuna kept her hot bat as well. She had a clutch single tie the game in the fifth and went back-to-back with Torres in the sixth on a ball she belted to the palm trees on the other side of right field.
“With more and more at-bats and experience, they get better. I think Yanni has slowed her mind down,” Arizona State head coach Trisha Ford said. “She works a lot with (assistant) coach(es) (Jimmy Kolaitis) and (Jeff) Harger about her approach…She’s now digested (information) and comes up with a plan she feels comfortable with.”
Allison Royalty gave Ford five solid innings in the circle. She stayed aggressive early in counts to put herself ahead and avoided big walk numbers.
Stanford’s Aly Kaneshiro did have Royalty’s number. The designated hitter powered two home runs against the Arizona State righty and drove in all six of her team’s runs.
Lindsay Lopez closed out the game, but Stanford put pressure on her. The Cardinal loaded the bases in the seventh. Kaneshiro delivered a two-run single to close the gap to four. Lopez responded inducing two groundouts to end the game.
Jazmine Hill was a thorn in Alana Vawter’s side all night long. The sophomore right fielder delivered the biggest blow to end the game. Hill took the first pitch in her seventh-inning at-bat and lined it over the left field wall for the 5-4 walk-off win.
“My biggest thing was to work on my mental side of the game. It was just making sure to control it in each at-bat,” Hill said. “My plan was just to put the ball in play and see what happens.”
All four of Hill’s at-bats were productive against Vawter. She grounded out in her first appearance but saw 12 pitches. She had another long at-bat in the third that ended in a walk and her later scoring. Hill also tripled in the fifth.
Maddi Hackbarth took advantage of the opportunities Hill presented her. After she lined out in the first, Hackbarth squared up another ball past the diving Sydnee Huff at second base. The ball rolled to the wall for a two-run double to put the Sun Devils on top in the third. She also hit a sacrifice-fly following Hill’s triple.
Makenna Harper had her own clutch home run in the sixth. Her sixth home run of the season tied the game at four.
Cielo Meza made her first appearance since March 27 and had her best outing in quite awhile. She produced a lot of weak groundballs. Her day ended after Montana Dixon’s solo home run, Dixon was also an inch away from a three-run blast in the second inning. Meza’s 3.1 innings of work was what Ford needed from her sixth-year senior.
“I thought Cielo came out today and looked much better,” Ford said. “She had some good swing-and-misses. I think she needed that more than anybody…She took a break and a moment to gather her stuff. I’m happy for her to come out and compete today.”
Royalty came in and replicated her performance from the first game. Her lone mistake was a pitch the ended up over the scoreboard on a two-run blast from Eleni Spirakis, who has hit the ball hard in every game of the series.
She also had a few clutch moments herself. She stranded a runner at second base to end the top of the sixth. Harper proceeded to tie the game on the flip side of that frame. Royalty also sat down the top of the Cardinal order in the seventh and avoided having to face Spirakis again.
“Royalty did a good job today,” Ford said. “…It was important to start working that off-speed and become a chameleon, you can’t look the same every single time…Royalty got better and better (in the second game). The off-speed was working, she was hitting both sides of the plate. That’s going to be key for us.”
Overall, Hill and Torres stepped up in a key series for Arizona State and Ford will want more of that. As she put it, it was a glimpse of the program’s foundation past 2021.
“(Jazmine) and Alynah are the future of our program,” Ford said. “It’s important that other people stepped up and got us a team win.”
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