No. 22 Arizona State (8-2) recorded two wins on Saturday, taking down Detroit Mercy (0-6) and No. 10 Kentucky (6-2) in extra innings on day two of the Littlewood Classic.
The victory against the Wildcats marked the second time in as many nights that ASU took down the SEC foe, and currently the only two losses on Kentucky’s schedule have come at the hands of the team in Tempe.
Game One: Detroit Mercy
ASU’s first game against Detroit Mercy was an onslaught from the get-go. The Sun Devils took down the Titans 15-1, and had the bats rolling.
The team put up an eight-run third inning and four-run fourth, and ASU had 11 different players with hits. Senior outfielder Kindra Hackbarth added another home run and picked up two RBI’s.
Additionally, freshman shortstop Alynah Torres had two hits and two RBI’s, and so did sophomore outfielder Makenna Harper.
Freshman Macy Simmons and junior Kiara Kennedy also factored in for two RBI’s. In the circle, senior Sam Mejia went 4.2 innings and punched out 10 batters in a matchup that ended in five-inning run rule fashion.
Game two, however, would be a much different narrative than ASU’s first bout of the day.
Game Two: Kentucky
Following a blowout, ASU was thrust into a dog fight in a second straight top-25 matchup with Kentucky.
In the end, though, the Sun Devils came out on top against the Wildcats 7-5 in 11 innings thanks to a walk-off two-run home run from senior outfielder Alli Tatnall.
With a runner on third base and less than two outs, Tatnall was just looking to get the run in any way she could. She had a discussion with assistant coach Jeff Harger just moments prior to stepping in the box.
“He came up to me and said, ‘Can you hit me a fly ball?’” said Tatnall recalling the interaction. “I was like, let me get something up but not over my head. So literally as soon as I made contact with that ball, I was like, ‘It’s in the air. I gave him a fly ball! I gave him what I wanted,’ not knowing that it was over the fence until I passed first base.”
The blast carried over the right field wall, and it marked a resilient effort from an ASU team that had not led all game up until that point.
Head coach Trisha Ford was glad to see Tatnall end it, and she elaborated on how the fourth-year player has made the most of her time in Tempe, as she is now in a position to hit in the lineup everyday as the team’s primary designated player this season.
“I am genuinely, from the bottom of my heart happy for her because that kid didn’t see any part of the field for two years, and last year she got part of it, and this year she has been our DP,” Ford said of Tatnall. “When you have kids like that, that put in their time and are good teammates and do things the right way, it warms my heart and makes me very proud. She’s trusted the process.”
Prior to Tatnall’s game-winner, there were other heroics from players throughout the lineup. Most notably, Torres came through in the clutch in the bottom of the eighth inning.
After Kentucky put up three runs to make the score 4-1, the freshman shortstop extended the game by belting a shot over the left center field wall to knot the scoreboard at four.
“That’s what you live for. That’s what you play softball for,” said Torres of the game-tying homer. “…I was going to go for it because we were already in a good game. It was exciting when I did it because I was out of a slump, and it was exciting to see my teammates all happy for me.”
Throughout most of the contest, the game was a low-scoring affair. Kentucky put up the first run of the night in the fourth inning, and ASU didn’t get the run back until the bottom of the seventh when Kennedy tripled into the right field gap to score junior infielder Bella Loomis from second base.
From there, both teams traded punches and there was an extra flare involved. Due to non-conference tournament play, the international tie breaker rule was put into effect, meaning that in extras, teams would start their at-bats with a runner on second base.
Kentucky put up its three runs in the eighth before Torres tied it, and both sides later added RBI sac flies in the 10th before Tatnall’s walk-off heroics.
Pitching-wise, ASU also got a jolt from senior Cielo Meza, who started Saturday’s game and exited, only to return in extras and make a variety of quality pitches to help her team down the stretch.
“I didn’t want to come out but I knew Pres (Madison Preston) was going to come in and get the job done no matter what,” Meza said. “We gave up those runs in the extra innings, but I came back in ready to go because I wanted it so bad for our team.”
Ultimately, the wild night ended in favor of the Devils’. Similar to how it has been all season in the early portion of non-conference play, the cardiac kids used a late comeback to snatch a victory.
“I think tonight really kind of solidifies ASU softball,” Ford said. “We are never out of a game…It was a great example of all of it kind of coming together and culminating in to a win.”
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