ASU softball done in by Oregon's huge second inning
MAY 04, 2014 2:23a ET
EUGENE, Ore. -- The third-ranked Arizona State 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 in 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 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 of 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 batters of the game, as each of Oregon's next eight batters would reach base on a hit (seven) or a walk (one). The inning was punctuated by a two-run home run by Janelle Lindvall.
Facing a nine-run deficit, the Sun Devils tried to rally 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, the winner of Friday's game, entered in the second inning and, with the exception of Lindvall's home run, was able to keep Oregon in check, striking out five over 3 2/3 innings.
But the Devils were unable to follow up their two-run third inning with any additional runs in the fourth or fifth.
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 for pinch hitter Stevie Jo Knapp, who connected on a three-run home run to bring contest to a halt via the run rule.
Nicholson said that while the result was disappointing, the important thing for the Sun Devils was that they continued to battle after the disastrous second inning.
"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."
ASU now turns its attention to Sunday's series finale.
"Regardless of what the scores were (in the first two games), the series is tied 1-1," Nicholson said, "and we'll come out tomorrow and try and finish it up the right way."