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No. 4 Softball Clinches Share of Pac-12 Title with Win in Seattle

May 13, 2022

SEATTLE – Sun Devil Softball are the 2022 Pac-12 Champions by virtue of a 8-4 victory over Washington on Friday evening.
 
No. 4 Arizona State (38-9, 19-4) evened the series thanks to an impressive game two win, clinching a share of their first Pac-12 Title since 2011. 2022 Pac-12 Coach of the Year Trisha Ford guides the Sun Devils to their program record 19th conference win.
 
A resilient effort allowed the Maroon & Gold to pull out the victory, reclaiming the lead with an emphatic offensive outburst in the seventh inning. Clutch run-scoring singles by Jessica Puk and Yanni Acuña tied the game and gave the Sun Devils a lead respectively, but it was a devastating three-run blast off the bat of Cydney Sanders that sealed the Pac-12 Championship.

"What I am most proud about is our progression this year," Head Coach Trisha Ford remarked. "How we started and how we kept fighting. Our team chemistry is just out of the world. I admire the way we grinded this out. They have done a tremendous job. Championships are always great and something to really celebrate, but for us we have a bigger desire."
 
Freshman right-hander Mac Morgan got the start in a big moment, and she delivered 5.2 of effective innings for her team. Lindsay Lopez came in to earn her 12th win of the season in relief, working a 1-2-3 inning to trigger the celebration.
 
Keen Sun Devil eyes were at work in Seattle this evening, as ASU reached a new season high as it drew 10 walks. This is the first time 10 walks have been drawn by the Sun Devils since last March against Montana.
 
Junior Alynah Torres continues to be an impact for ASU in the leadoff spot as she got the Sun Devils on the board in the top of the third inning in her 14th home run of the season. UW then scored in their half of the third inning to tie the game, 1-1.
 
In the top of the fourth, senior Mailey McLemore came into pinch hit and singled to bring in senior Jazmyn Rollin and sophomore Emily Cazares to bring the Sun Devils ahead by two. Cazares was the leadoff batter for ASU that inning which made it three innings in a row for the Sun Devils where the leadoff batter made it on base.
 
Both teams were scoreless through the fourth and fifth innings, and in the Huskies' half of the sixth inning they hit a three-run homer to take their first lead of the game. In the top of the seventh, graduate Jessi Puk tied things up with an RBI to bring in Rollin. With two on base, freshman Cydney Sanders hit her 18th home run of the season in a three-run homer to pull ASU ahead 8-4.

PAC-12 CHAMPIONS

  • This is the first Pac-12 Championship for the program since 2011.
    • Only the third time they have ever won the conference, also previously winning in 2008.
  • Softball becomes the third Arizona State team to win a Pac-12 Championship during the 2021-22 athletic year (Wrestling, Gymnastics)
  • Arizona State will receive the automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament as the Pac-12's representative.

HOW IT HAPPENED
ASU 8, UW 4
FIRST INNING
The Sun Devils got started right off the bat with leadoff batter Alynah Torres being walked. Cydney Sanders picked up the second early walk of the evening for ASU to bring Torres to second, but both batters were left stranded on a double play.
 
Mac Morgan got the ball and was ready to compete from the opening pitch. She immediately retired the Huskies' best hitter Baylee Klingler to open up the inning on a groundout to short. She also set down the next two batters easily, first getting a lazy fly out to right before striking out the following Husky to put up a zero in the first.
 
SECOND INNING
With two down, Halle Harger singled down the right field line to get on base and reached second after Jessi Puk was hit by a pitch, but both runners were stranded going into the bottom of the second.
 
In the Huskies' half of the second frame, they walked their leadoff batter to get on base for the first time of the evening. The Sun Devils then got the next three outs, which included Morgan's second strikeout of the evening.
 
THIRD INNING
ASU got on the board off a homer to left field off Torres to give the Sun Devils the 1-0 edge. In the bottom of the third, the Huskies had a home run to right center to tie the game up 1-1, but kept the game tied as ASU got the next three outs.
 
FOURTH INNING
Arizona State had back-to-back walks for Emily Cazares and Jazmyn Rollin in the top of the fourth to have runners on first and second with no outs. Cazares advanced to third with Rollin advancing to second off a wild pitch. Mailey McLemore came into pinch hit for Puk and she singled to left field to bring in Cazares and Rollin to give ASU the 3-1 lead.
 
With two outs, Torres was walked to get on base advancing Puk, who came back in as the base runner, to second. Yanni Acuña was hit by a pitch to load the bases for the Sun Devils, but a popup left all three runners stranded going into the bottom of the fourth.
 
The Huskies got on base off a walk with one out as UW had a second batter reach base off a fielder's choice, but a groundout kept the Sun Devils ahead going into the fifth.
 
FIFTH INNING
Rollin walked for the second time of the evening with two outs in the Sun Devils' half of the frame. Kristiana Watson came into pinch hit for Harger, and she was also walked to bring Rollin to second. Next up to bat was Puk, who was hit by a pitch to load the bases with two outs, but all three runners were left stranded off a foul ball.
 
Morgan had a quick inning in the circle to keep ASU ahead 3-1 going into the final two innings as she picked up her third strikeout of the evening.
 
SIXTH INNING
Acuña walked with one away in the top of the sixth and made it to second on a stolen base. With two down, Jaz Hill reached base off a walk, the ninth of the evening for the Sun Devils as Acuña and Hill were left stranded on a strikeout.
 
Lopez came in in the bottom of the sixth with two outs with the Huskies having runners on second and third after a UW double. The Huskies took the lead off a three-run homer to right center to lead 4-3, as Lopez got out of the inning on a groundout.
 
SEVENTH INNING
Looking for a push in the top of the seventh, Rollin was walked as the leadoff batter. Fundamentals were excecuted to perfection, as Halle Harger advanced her to second with only one out. Enter Jessica Puk, who came through with a  to center field, which brought in Rollin to tie the game at four. Bella Loomis singled to center field, advancing Puk to home to give the Sun Devils the lead. With Loomis and Acuña on base, Cydney Sanders hit a three-run home run to give ASU the 8-4 lead going into the bottom of the seventh.
 
Lopez struck out consecutive batters to get two quick outs in the bottom of the seventh and the Huskies had a batter reach first on a hit by pitch, but a pop up to second base gave the Sun Devils the 8-4 win to tie the series.

NOTABLES

  • This is the third conference championship Trisha Ford has won as a head coach in her career, previously taking home the 2015 & 2016 Mountain West Regular Season Championship while at Fresno State.
  • Arizona State won their 19th conference game, the most in single-season program history. It surpasses the previous total of 18 put up during the Women's College World Series run in 2008 and again in 2012.
  • ASU becomes the sixth Pac-12 program to have three or more regular season championships (Arizona State, UCLA, Arizona, California, Washington, Oregon).
  • Move to 9-3 in true road games, one of the best winning percentages in the nation away from home.
  • The Sun Devils have still not lost back-to-back games all season.
  • Arizona State hands Washington just their fourth loss at home this season (came into game 9-3).
  • Since Pac-12 play began in March, Alynah Torres leads the conference in home runs, now with 12 of 14 coming against some of the nation's top pitchers.
  • Sun Devil Softball is 32-0 when scoring more than six runs this season 
  • ASU came into the weekend 4th in the nation in home runs per game with an average of 1.98 per game and matched that with a pair today.
  • 2022 Pac-12 Player of the Year has struggled against Sun Devil pitching, as she went 0-for-4 today and is now 0-for-7 in the series. She has not had consecutive hitless games this season and the last time she was held without a hit in two straight contests was against Oregon in 2021 (4/17-4/18).
  • The ten walks and 13 total free passes both represent a season high, coming in a crucial game. It is the first time ASU has had ten walks since last March in a game against Montana.

QUOTABLES
Head Coach Trisha Ford

On what this championship means to her
"At the end of the day, it is all about our team, our program, and the people who have supported us. We have a tremendous group of young ladies out here competing their butts off day-in and day-out. I think I have the best staff and obviously our support is special. For us, it was just a culmination of those things. Add in some secret sauce…And here we are."
 
On giving the ball to Mac Morgan in such a big game
"I love her insides. When I talk to recruits, I tell them I recruit 'insides'. I feel like we can develop kids here and we can make them better, but if you don't have good insides, we are probably not a good fit. I think Mac has some one the best insides I have ever coached. She has been put into a lot of big games this year, but that is why she came here. That was part of my vision when I recruited her. I said 'Mac, I think you can come in here and be a big dog'. She wants to play that part."
 
More from Coach Ford on Mac Morgan
"She has continued to work on her craft and is so coachable. I thoroughly enjoy our bullpens together. We have great conversations. She is somebody that wants to be a learner. When you get someone who has her talent and has that desire, it is ingredients for super success."
 
On Mailey McLemore's pinch hit two-run single in the fourth
"Mailey has been absolutely lights out for us. It takes a special kind of person to be able to come off the bench cold, watch the game, and execute at a high level. She has done that for us all year long. I keep telling her, you make me look good."
 
On Mailey McLemore's contributions
"The thing people don't know about Mailey is she is in the bullpen warming up catchers. She is keeping charts in the dugout and doing everything she possibly can to help us win. Whether that be on the field in her at bats, in the bullpen, or in the dugout. The softball gods know."
 
On another comeback victory
"We have talked about this since I have been here. Nobody feels comfortable with us and that was huge. They had all the momentum on their side and obviously we came back. We had some kids come up big for us. A few walks and then we put a sacrifice bunt down with them in our face. Then (Jessica) Puk comes through. That is the thing about this team. They just find ways to win. It is not about the home runs. It is about putting people on base, moving them over, and getting them into scoring position. Then executing with a hit."
 
"A lot of it had to do with our ability to chop some balls through the middle of the field, put a bunt down, and steal a couple bases. We did some of the little things. Typically, people would say we are more of a long ball hitting team, but we executed the smaller things, which is why I felt like we came out on top yesterday."
 
On Yanni Acuña's go-ahead single off Gabbie Plain
"I thought Yanni was seeing her well on Thursday. Obviously Thursday did not turn out our way, but we made Gabbie throw a lot of pitches. I always feel more comfortable when we have seen a pitcher twice. I felt like Yanni had a really good approach with her on Thursday. Tonight, she did a great job of battling and hit a ball up the middle."
 
Cydney Sanders' home run off Gabbie Plain
"Cyd put an exclamation point mark, which as the pitching coach you are always happy to have extra runs. She is a professional hitter. She had a plan and gut feeling, knowing what Gabbie was going to come at her with and she was ready first pitch. You don't see that out of freshman. It is wild to me. Cyd said 'I didn't miss, Coach' and I said 'that's right'."
 
On what makes this team special
"The believe in each other. That is the one thing that really separates this team from the previous five seasons. This team really believes in each other. Top to bottom."
 
On the team's mindset heading into the series finale
"They know it is going to be hard. It is a super regional-type matchup. Winner take all, best 2-of-3 series. For them, we get this opportunity to play a great team. On Thursday, Plain pitched one of her best games ever. She was lights out. We get another chance to test ourselves against a top pitcher."

Senior utility player Mailey McLemore
On staying ready when being called up as a pitch hitter:
"Just staying focused throughout the game from the beginning and making sure that my timing is down and trusting myself, keeping a rhythm and making sure that I'm getting my swings off."

On her approach toward Lynch:
"She a throwing a lot of fastballs, so the plan was to look down and get something over the plate since she wasn't throwing a lot of strikes."

On coming through for the team:
"It was awesome, especially in a tight game like tonight, I love being able to come in and help out."

On being a senior and playing in a clinching game:
"It's awesome. No greater feeling, everyone contributed and everyone is excited what we can do."

Freshman pitcher Mac Morgan

On getting the start in such a big moment
"Getting a start like that was truly a great opportunity for me. I was excited but I know I had to keep my calm to know I was going against these tough batters."

On supporting her teammates and fellow pitchers
"It's always important to have your teammate's back when they have yours. If they're going to work for me, I'm going to work for them. Even when it's not your opportunity or when your opportunity is over, you always have a role to play for your other staff members because pitching is hard mentally and physically and it takes everybody to win a game."

On what Pac-12 Championship means for the team
"It means a lot to all of us, we all wanted it so bad and no matter how hard the games are, we all knew we wanted this for each other and ourselves and our coaches."

Freshman first baseman Cydney Sanders
On her approach in facing Plain
"I was very excited that Yanni had got that base hit up the middle to give us the lead, so I could focus on getting us more runs. Going into that at bat, I figured she would work me inside since I hit a ball to right field in my last at bat against her. I ended up guessing correctly."

On the team's approach at the plate
"We were all just looking to get our pitch and not chase. We did a great job of that today."

On winning the Pac-12 Championship in her first season
"It is shocking and very exciting. I love being here. I love Arizona State and I am so glad to be a part of our first Pac-12 Championship in 12 years."

On the confidence gained from winning the conference
"We are just going to keep pushing the gas pedal and do our best. We won our conference, now we are going to try and win the College World Series."

WEEKEND SCHEDULE
Game 1: Thursday 5/12 7:00 p.m. MST                        UW 3, ASU 1
Game 2: Friday 5/13 5:00 p.m. MST                             ASU 8, UW 4
Game 3: Saturday 5/14 1:00 p.m. MST                        Live Stats | Pac-12 Arizona
 
SUN DEVILS IN THE RANKINGS
USA Softball/ESPN.com - 4
NFCA/USA Today -  8
Softball America -  5
D1 Softball -  5
 
Fans can keep up with all the news and action of ASU softball this weekend and the rest of the season by following @ASUSoftball on Twitter and Facebook and @SunDevilSB on Instagram.