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Arizona State softball took care of business this past weekend to secure its spot in the NCAA Super Regionals. The No. 8 Sun Devils outscored their opponents 24-14 to the tune of some of the best music the 2000s had to offer. Not to mention, the team’s confidence only seems to be growing.
The veterans on this team continue to keep the flame burning with the likes of graduate student infielder Bella Loomis and senior outfielder Yannira Acuña. Loomis had three hits, three runs and two RBIs on the weekend. Acuña put up seven hits, four runs, four RBIs and a home run.
While they keep the fire lit, the young guns on the team are pouring gasoline on it, seemingly ready to contend with anyone in the nation. During the Tempe Regional, it was redshirt freshman Kristiana Watson who pushed the Sun Devils past Cal State Fullerton.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Watson walked up to the plate as a pinch hitter to the sound of “Sweet but Psycho” by Ava Max. The Sun Devils trailed the Titans 2-1, and it was looking grim for ASU softball fans in attendance.
That was, of course, until Watson blasted a grand slam over the fence to give ASU’s a 5-2 lead, which ultimately was the final score.
“In that situation, I was just doing my best to keep it simple and hit something hard to boost my team,” Watson said after Friday’s game. “It was very special, my family is always here and they don’t miss a game, so having them here in this moment was great.”
Watson wasn’t the only freshman to give this ASU team a boost over the weekend. Freshman pitcher Mac Morgan was arguably the most important player to the Sun Devil roster during the Tempe Regional.
Morgan pitched two full games. The first of her two appearances was Friday’s win over Cal State Fullerton where she gave up two runs and accumulated nine strikeouts.
The second game was the Tempe Regional final against San Diego State where the Sun Devils won 8-4. The NCAA Tournament has just begun, but Morgan said each pitch in that environment made her grow as a player.
“Tonight felt awesome,” Morgan said after Friday’s performance. “It was a great opportunity for me as a freshman to really learn what the feelings are actually like and learn how to deal with them. Feeling that pressure being up only one run [in the top of the third] makes you think and mentally prepare yourself for the next pitch and where you want to put it.”
It’s not just the fans and media watching Morgan grow along with the other young bucks in this postseason format. Coach Trisha Ford, who won Pac-12 Coach of the Year, said Morgan has grown with each passing week.
“I think for Mac, it’s her growth,” Ford said following Sunday’s victory. “It’s a kid that came to us that threw every summer from May until August every single game. She’s a horse and it’s why we recruited her here. We have four very capable pitchers, and those are the pieces that can help us mix-and-match when we need to.”
ASU softball fans are watching a team of veterans keep consistency as the younger players begin to evolve into stars. It truly is a deadly combination in this postseason tournament.
If Watson’s grand slam or Morgan’s two full games in three days isn’t enough evidence, there’s another freshman who is well on her way to becoming the best softball player to ever wear the maroon and gold — infielder Cydney Sanders.
As if winning Pac-12 Freshman of the Year wasn’t enough, Sanders blasted her 21st home run of the season on Sunday. That homer made Sanders the new ASU softball single-season home run record-holder.
“It’s pretty uplifting,” Sanders said after Sunday’s win. “It makes you excited, and for the team, it’s super exciting. Like, you hear the roar of the crowd and your ears are ringing. I love it.”
The evolution of this ASU softball team is an aspect of the season that many outside of the roster didn’t see coming. The expectations for the Sun Devils were they’d be a team in the middle of the pack in terms of Pac-12 standings.
Instead, Ford led this team to a Pac-12 championship. The Sun Devils will take on No. 9 Northwestern in the Tempe Super Regional this coming weekend.
It’ll be a best-of-three series between the two squads. If ASU fans simply turn on the television, they’ll see the talent on this roster. However, if they’ve watched them as the weeks have progressed, they’ll have seen the confidence of these young women.
A team with talent is a dangerous one. A talented team with confidence is lethal.