Macha and other ASU pitchers face national home-run leading Arizona in Tucson.
This page is for coverage of Arizona State baseball and softball for the week of April 24-30.
This week, softball visits rival Arizona while ASU baseball visits Oregon.
No. 23 ASU softball looks for ‘gritty, not pretty’ play against big hitting No. 3 Arizona
It’s taken some time for Arizona softball to get back to where it once was nationally.
The Wildcats last played in the Women’s College World Series in 2010, a six-year absence that seems like an eternity for a program with 22 WCWS appearances (in the NCAA era) and eight national championships.
But UA has not won it all since 2007, before Mike Candrea’s second season away as U.S. Olympic coach, while Arizona State ascended to become WCWS champion in 2008 and ’11 and also make it to Oklahoma City for nationals in 2009, ’12 and ’13.
Now the pendulum has swung south again.
Candrea, in his 30th season (not counting the Olympic years), has a monstrous hitting team that is 45-4, 15-3 Pac-12 and ranked No. 3 behind Florida and Florida State. ASU, in its first season under coach Trisha Ford, is 27-14, 6-9 and ranked No. 23.
The rivals meet Friday-Sunday in Tucson with coverage for all three games on Pac-12 Network (6 p.m. games 1-2, 5 p.m. game 3).
“Really going into this weekend, we’ve got nothing to lose,” Ford said because of her team’s underdog status particularly on the road. “It’s an opportunity for us to come out and really learn and get better. The Utah series we did that. We just couldn’t quite get over the hump the last two games.”
ASU went 1-2 at home against No. 10 Utah in three one-run games. The Utes (30-9) were 2-1 against Arizona on April 13-15 in Salt Lake City, creating some optimism that the Sun Devils can be competitive against an opponent with a nation-leading 82 home runs.
UA third baseman Katiyana Mauga needs eight home runs to become the NCAA career leader, surpassing 95 by Oklahoma’s Lauren Chamberlain. The senior has 21 homers this season and three freshmen — Jessie Harper, Alyssa Palomino and Dejah Mulipola — have double-digit homers.
Every UA starter is hitting above .300 topped by shortstop Mo Mercado at .407. The team batting average is .346 (No. 4 nationally).
MORE: Pac-12 softball standings
“Every pitch is going to be big,” Ford said. “It’s going to be mentally draining. You can either look at it as it’s going to be a lot of work or I get this opportunity to kind of put my name on the books. There are going to be long balls that get hit on both sides. It’s whoever responds. We just worry about us hitting our spots then making sure we’re refocusing after we miss a spot.”
As if hitting wasn’t enough, UA’s pitching is No. 2 nationally in earned run average (1.17).Senior left-hander Danielle O’Toole is 24-3, 0.93 and sophomore lefty Taylor McQuillin is 15-1, 1.52. They’ve struck out a combined 302.
ASU’s pitchers have taken some lumps lately against No. 6 Oregon and Utah but still have a credible 1.79 ERA (No. 21 nationally). Freshman Alyssa Loza is now contributing on the mound along with juniors Breanna Macha and Dale Ryndak and freshman Giselle Juarez.
“This is year three that Macha and Dale are being seen,” Ford said. “They’ve done a great job of reinventing themselves. We’re much more cohesive as a bullpen. They’re really here for each other. I’ve seen a lot of growth with that.”
The ASU hitting leaders are senior shortstop Chelsea Gonzales (.372, 10 homers), sophomore third baseman Taylor Becerra (.347), senior catcher Sashel Palacios (.325) and sophomore center fielder Skylar McCarty (.324).
ASU is first in the Pac-12 in walks allowed (65), a good starting point when it comes to keeping UA players off base ahead of the mashers.
“We look at them just like any other team,” said Macha, 11-6 with a 1.52 ERA. “Every week we prep really hard, we watch film, do our studying hours. We’re going to handle them just like any other team and attack them.
“We have confidence in ourselves. That says a lot about her (Ford). She has confidence in us to go out there and get the job done. That’s one thing that has personally helped me is having my coach believe in me.”
ASU’s current motto is “gritty, not pretty,” Macha said. Plenty of grit will be required to deal with an opponent with five finalists for USA Softball Player of the Year and National Professional Fastpitch draft picks on senior weekend.
Candrea now has 1,513 career wins, five behind Michigan’s Carol Hutchins for most in NCAA history. He and Ford, formerly at Frenso State, are friends at least going into their first rivalry experience.
“I have a lot of respect for coach Candrea,” Ford said. “But it’s an opportunity for us to show what we’re about. I think we’re ready.”
ASU softball this week
Friday – ASU at Arizona, 6 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
Saturday – ASU at Arizona, 6 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
Sunday – ASU at Arizona, 5 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
ASU baseball at Oregon
When: 6 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday, noon Sunday.
Where: PK Park, Eugene, Ore.
ASU: Coming off a 2-2 non-conference week ASU (18-20, 5-10 Pac-12) returns to conference play with five weeks left in the season. The Sun Devils have won six of their last eight including a sweep over Washington State on April 13-15. Chaz Montoya, Eli Lingos and Eder Erives were the starting pitchers last weekend against Cal State Bakersfield with all going five innings or longer. OF Gage Canning is batting .538 during his 12-game hitting streak with a .885 slugging percentage.
MORE: Pac-12 baseball standings
Oregon: The Ducks (23-13, 6-9) were swept at home by Stanford last weekend and are on a five-game losing streak that began April 14. David Peterson (8-2, 2.20 ERA) is among the Pac-12 leading pitchers and has 87 strikeouts in 65.1 innings. SS Kyle Kasser is hitting .329 as is OF Matthew Dyer of Glendale (in 12 fewer games than Kasser). Oregon is No. 56 in NCAA ratings percentage index with ASU at No. 100.
ASU baseball loses more than statistic if 30-win season streak ends
I can’t remember when I first met Bobby Winkles.
It probably was during my first run covering Arizona State baseball from 1988-94, perhaps during an alumni game before a season opener. If not then, it was early on after I returned to the beat in 2004. Winkles was in Omaha as a guest during several of ASU’s trips to the College World Series from 2005-10 and has made some appearances at home games.
Winkles is 87 now. He was at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, where his ASU teams played their most important games in the 1960s, for a 50-year anniversary reunion of the 1967 College World Series championship team last weekend. I spoke to him before the game Saturday, knowing in advance that he might have difficulty remembering our past meetings.
“You’ve written about me before,” said Winkles, whose story now is told in a memoir “From the Cotton Fields to the Major Leagues” written with Dan Poppers. “Thank you for that.”
Despite his fragility, Winkles trotted onto the field when introduced like he did so many times during his coaching career, rising to the occasion.
Seeing Winkles reinforced why it matters if ASU’s 54-year streak of 30-win seasons ends as it’s almost destined to at this point. The Sun Devils are 18-20 with 17 games remaining. To expect a 12-5 finish is not realistic and even winning 10 to end above .500 (28-27) will be a stretch.
Winkles’ fourth ASU team in 1962 won 27 games. Since then through 2016, the Sun Devils have always made it to at least 30 wins even in 1985, a NCAA probation season when they were 31-35 (more games were allowed then and that was coach Jim Brock’s only losing season).
The 30-win streak, longest in the country at 54 years, is living history. It links every ASU varsity coach – Winkles, Brock, Pat Murphy, Tim Esmay, Tracy Smith – covers all five national championship teams and bridges the eras from Phoenix Muni to Packard Stadium and back to Muni.
Its beginning coincided with the outbreak of Beatlemania in 1963 and seemingly will end with the 50th anniversary of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, released in June ’67. That’s a long run near the top of the charts.
For perspective if not importance, ASU’s 30-year win streak is 10 years longer than Miami baseball’s for most consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. In football, the record for most consecutive bowl games is 35 (Florida State/Nebraska). In men’s basketball, Kansas is the leader in consecutive NCAA appearances with 28.
Once broken, the thread cannot be re-connected. All streaks presumably are destined to end, but this one will hurt much more than when ASU’s NCAA record 506-game scoring streak came to a halt in 2004. That was about a statistic. The 30-win streak is more about a standard and a bond linking generations of Sun Devils.
There’s a more practical side to 30 wins too. If you’re not winning at least that many, you’re not playing in the 64-team NCAA Championship, the minimum expectation for ASU baseball. This will be the seventh straight non-College World Series year for the Sun Devils, the longest in school history.
Smith, in his third season, said Winkles reminded him of a conversation they had when he took the ASU job. “We talk about the program and we’re having a down year and he goes, you remember when I told you the first time we talked it’s a four-year project. I said, I remember.”
Year 4 is coming up in 2018 (Smith received one-year extension after his each of his first two seasons and is under contract through the 2021 season). There still is time to get the program righted and avert a third coaching change in a decade.
But something irreplaceable, much like Winkles, will be lost this season.
Territorial Cup Series tied
The Territorial Cup Series is tied at 7.5 points with the latest point going to Arizona for a fourth-place finish in Pac-12 women’s golf (ASU was sixth).
The men’s golf point will be decided this weekend along with softball.
The Pac-12 men’s golf tournament is Friday-Sunday at Boulder (Colo.) Country Club. USC is ranked No. 1 nationally, Stanford No. 7, Oregon No. 9 and ASU No. 25. ASU has won a dozen Pac-10/12 titles but none since 2008.
Other Territorial Cup points still at stake are baseball and men’s and women’s outdoor track. UA won the first of five baseball games with games remaining May 9 in Tucson and May 18-20 at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
ASU Territorial Cup Series points are in men’s cross country, men’s swimming, gymnastics, women’s tennis, men’s and women’s indoor track, volleyball (half point), women’s basketball (half) and beach volleyball (half). UA’s points are in football, men’s basketball, women’s soccer, women’s cross country, women’s swimming, women’s golf, volleyball (half), women’s basketball (half) and beach volleyball (half).
In Learfield Directors’ Cup final winter standings, UA is No. 43 nationally and ASU No. 57. ASU was shut out of Directors’ Cup points in the fall so all 262.50 came in winter sports.
Lax for this Van Raaphorst
Duke’s Cade Van Raaphorst, a sophomore defenseman from Phoenix, made the All-ACC men’s lacrosse team. He leads the No. 4-ranked Blue Devils in caused turnovers.
Van Raaphorst two a two-time US Lacrosse All-America while at Phoenix Desert Vista High School and three-time all-state first team. He is the son of former ASU quarterback Jeff Van Raaphorst.
Reach Metcalfe at 602-444-8053 or [email protected] Follow him at twitter.com/jeffmetcalfe.