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Arizona State freshmen could play major role in crucial series against UCLA

David Rodish Avatar
May 3, 2022

After losing two of three games against Stanford, thereby ending its 20-game win streak, ASU softball needed to regain its juice.

Against Stanford, ASU won a single game and scored six total runs. The Sun Devils hadn’t scored less than eight runs in a conference game since the first matchup against Oregon State on March 18.

“I’m trying to forget last week,” coach Trisha Ford said after a 13-5 win against Cal on Saturday.

Once back in Tempe, the Sun Devils made it easier for their coach to do just that with a three game-sweep of the Golden Bears. Two freshmen stepped up in a major way: first baseman Cydney Sanders and pitcher Mac Morgan.

Sanders finished the Cal series batting 4-6 with a home run, five RBIs and four walks.

“She is a professional hitter,” Ford said of Sanders. “She understands the game, she understands what her body is doing, she knows what pitches she should attack. These are things you usually don’t see from freshmen.”

This all came ahead of ASU’s biggest weekend of the season. ASU will host No. 3 UCLA, the 2021 Women’s College World Series runner-up.

The matchup hasn’t gone in ASU’s favor for a while. The Sun Devils are on a nine-game losing streak to UCLA and are 1-16 against the Bruins since the start of the 2016 season. Since 2018, ASU has only scored more than one run against UCLA twice. ASU has been shut out four times, including the last two matchups.

The two freshmen can be difference-makers both offensively and defensively.

Sanders isn’t just one of the best players on the team, she is one of the best players in the Pac-12. She leads ASU with a batting average of .434, has 17 home runs and 53 RBIs. In the Pac-12, she is second in batting average, tied for third in home runs and tied for second in RBIs.

“I just see the ball, hit the ball; I’m not thinking too much about it,” Sanders said. “I didn’t really think I would be going off like this, but it’s cool that I am.”

Morgan has had the largest workload on the pitching staff, appearing in 23 games and starting 15, both of which are the most on the team. Her ERA is 2.50 and she has 51 strikeouts this year.

“We used the feeling we had when we lost and brought that to the field,” Morgan said. “We know what we can do.”

Morgan has grown under the tutelage of Ford. Understanding the why and not just the how behind pitching has led to her successful campaign.

“Coach Ford has helped me a lot with my release point, everything mechanical, mentally and physically,” Morgan said. “She’s there for you as a person and a coach. She gives you good advice on how to fix things.”

ASU’s defense hasn’t had an answer in recent games against UCLA. In the 10 games since 2018, ASU has only held the Bruins to under five runs four times.

While Ford said she believes Morgan’s control of the strike zone has improved through the season, against UCLA she needs to own it.

After ASU’s fifth Pac-12 series sweep, ASU is in position to take control of the Pac-12. UCLA has one more Pac-12 loss after a run-rule loss in its final game against Utah 8-0. 

The three-game series starts May 6 at Alberta B. Farrington Stadium in Tempe.

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