Ole Miss 3, ASU softball 0
Ole Miss pulled ahead in the bottom of the sixth with back-to-back triples to score the game’s first run in ASU softball’s 3-0 loss. Pitcher Dale Ryndak retired her seventh straight by the end of the fifth.
ASU will face the winner of Southern Illinois vs. UNC at 4:30 p.m. MST Saturday in an elimination round.
ASU softball hits 4 home runs to crush North Carolina in regional opener
Arizona State softball got the scoring started early with two-run and three-run home runs in the bottom of the first inning as the Sun Devils cruised to a 9-3 win over North Carolina to open regional play in Oxford, Miss.
ASU starter Breanna Macha allowed three runs – two earned – in the first inning before settling down and not allowing another run the rest of the way. Macha allowed four hits and three walks, while striking out five over seven innings.
Shortstop Chelsea Gonzales led ASU with two home runs and three RBIs. Margaret Stahm and Brynley Steele also hit home runs, with Steele’s extending ASU’s lead to 8-3 in the third inning.
North Carolina starter Brittany Pickett lasted only 1/3 of an inning with five earned runs.
The Sun Devils take on regional host Ole Miss at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.
ASU softball looking to advance beyond regional for first time since 2013
Arizona State softball won the Women’s College World Series in 2011 and made it back to Oklahoma City for the 2012 and 2013 WCWS.
Since then, the Sun Devils have had three different coaches as their win total has been cut in half, from 60 in 2011 to their current 30.
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Despite the coaching instability, seemingly resolved with the arrival of Trisha Ford, ASU still has fought its way into the NCAA Tournament for a 13th consecutive season. In order to advance to a super regional for the first time in four years, the No. 22-ranked Sun Devils must win a double-elimination regional at No. 13 Mississippi, which won the SEC Tournament.
ASU (30-20) opens at 4 p.m. Friday against North Carolina (38-19), followed by Ole Miss (40-18) vs. Southern Illinois (33-22). Winners and losers play Saturday followed by a third game then the regional title will be decided Sunday.
“It’s going to be good for us that we’re going to be facing different teams and their styles,” ASU sophomore outfielder Fa Leilua said. “It challenges you as a player and as a team to see how much we can adjust to a different pitcher that we’ve never faced. I’m pretty sure this team is set for regionals to start fresh.”
ASU also had 30 regular-season wins in 2016 then went 2-2 at a regional in Baton Rouge, La., losing 4-0 in the championship game to LSU. The Sun Devils also were 2-2 in a Baton Rouge regional in 2015 and 2-2 in a home regional in 2014.
“These players know how to compete in a regional,” Ford said. “They’re all used to playing in postseason and it’s expected, which is great.”
ASU is on a four-game losing streak after being swept by No. 9 UCLA. If the Sun Devils and Bruins advance, they would meet in a best-of-three super regional at UCLA.
“We were doing things in slow motion and second-guessing ourselves” against UCLA, Ford said. “I told them it’s a life skill. You can either go through life worried about failure or you could grab it by the horns and execute and whatever happens, happens.”
Shortstop Chelsea Gonzales and catcher Sashel Palacio, both seniors, made All-Pac-12 first team for ASU. Junior pitcher Breanna Macha and sophomore third baseman Taylor Becerra earned third-team honors and pitcher Giselle Juarez made the All-Freshman team. All will have key roles in the regional, along with hot-hitting Leilua and senior first baseman Margaret Stahm.
Becerra is hitting .331, second behind Gonzales (.348), going into her second postseason.
“Last year was completely different,” Becerra said. “Going in as a freshman was pretty nerve-wracking. It feels different. I don’t know why, maybe how we’re preparing for each game and watching film.
“We need to do a good job keeping our energy up. Ole Miss is going into this pretty high. We have to match their energy and beat it. This week we worked hard at making practice like a game and competing simply put.”
Eight of nine Pac-12 teams are in the 64-team field with five hosting regionals.
Arizona State (30-20) vs. North Carolina (38-19), 4 p.m., ESPN
Southern Illinois (33-22) vs. No. 12 Mississippi (40-18), 6:30 p.m.
The regional is a double-elimination format, May 19-21, in Oxford, Miss.