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No. 3 Sun Devil Softball Unable to Overcome Inauspicious Second Inning in Loss at No. 1 Oregon

May 3, 2014

EUGENE, Ore – The third-ranked Arizona State University softball team was unable to overcome a nine-run second inning by top-ranked Oregon on Saturday as the Ducks came back to even the three-game series with a 12-2 win (six innings).

Unlike in Friday’s 4-2 win over Oregon (47-6, 18-2 Pac-12) in which they answered the Ducks’ offensive rally with a comeback of their own, the Sun Devils (43-8, 14-5) ended up digging too big of a hole to overcome on Saturday.

“They were well prepared and they were able to get things going (in the second inning),” said ASU head coach Craig Nicholson. “We had a couple opportunities to get out of the inning, or at least control it, and we didn’t take advantage them, and then things kind of snowballed after that.”

Both teams were retired in order in the first inning as the two starting pitchers (Oregon’s Karissa Hovinga and ASU’s Mackenzie Popescue) had their way early. The trend would continue into the second inning as the Sun Devils had three groundouts in the top half of the inning and Oregon’s first batter in the bottom half was retired on a grounder.

The remainder of the inning would belie what happened over the first 10 outs of the game as each of Oregon’s next eight batters would reach base on a hit (seven) or a walk (one). The majority of the hits were grounders that found an open space through the infield. The inning was punctuated by a two-run home run by Janelle Lindvall.

Despite facing the nine-run deficit, the Sun Devils would continue to fight as they came back in the top of the third inning with two runs of their own. With the bases loaded and two outs, Amber Freeman smacked a two-RBI double to left-center field that scored both Nikki Girard and Alix Johnson. Cheyenne Coyle nearly made it three runs on the play, but was thrown out attempting to score.

Dallas Escobedo, who won Friday’s came, entered in the second inning and, with the exception of Lindvall’s home run, was able to tame Oregon’s batters as she struck out five over 3.2 innings.

Unfortunately the Devils were unable to follow up their two-run third inning with any additional runs in the fourth or fifth inning.

Johnson and Coyle were both put out on similar plays to start the sixth as the throw to first beat them by a step on each of the respective sequences. Freeman would follow with her second hit of the game, a two-out single, but ASU could not muster any offense the rest of the inning.

Jenna Makis came on to pitch for ASU in the sixth inning and retired two of the first three batters she faced.

The Ducks were able to get two runners on with a hit and a walk, setting up pinch hitter Stevie Jo Knapp, who connected on a three-run home run to bring contest to a halt (via run rule).

Although the result was disappointing, Nicholson said the most important thing after the second inning was that the team continued to fight to the finish.

“We just wanted to keep competing because that’s what this team is built on,” said Nicholson. “It is tough to keep your mind right when you give up nine runs in the second inning, but I think we did a pretty good job.”

Nicholson stressed the most important thing was getting ready for Sunday’s rubber match.

“Regardless of what the scores were (in the first two games), the series is tied 1-1 and we’ll come out tomorrow and try and finish it up the right way.”

Sunday’s series finale (2 p.m. PT) can be seen live on Pac-12 Networks.