Fireworks in Tempe…UA v. ASU softball opens Pac-10

If you’re thinking about catching the fireworks at ASU’s Farrington Stadium this weekend, plan on standing for a couple of hours.

It’s not July 4, but it is the opening of the Arizona State v. Arizona softball “duel in the desert”  rivalry, which always sparks some fireworks at the plate.  This year, the series pits the No. 2 team in the nation, Arizona, against the No. 10 Sun Devils.  And the promise of plenty of hitting.

The three-game series, which opens Pac-10 play for both teams, began last night with a 12-6 Arizona win and continues through Saturday afternoon. And tickets have been sold out for some time, so the only thing left is standing room.

But, if you like great pitching and lots of hitting, it should be worth it.

You might also want to get there early because the teams haven’t been waiting around to get things going.  The Wilcats (29-3) scored five runs in the first inning, two of those home runs by K’Lee Arredondo and Brigette Del Ponte.  And then the Sun Devils (31-5) answered in the bottom half of that inning with four runs of their own.

And no one on the Devils’ squad was more shell-shocked than their pitcher, Hillary Bach, who left the game in the fifth inning.  The sophomore has been on fire so far this season, starting 15-1 with a 1.26 ERA.

But that didn’t impress the Wildcat hitters.

Bach gave up 11 runs on 11 hits before being pulled for Megan Elliott with two outs in the fifth.  But by that time, the Devils were in an 11-4 hole and never climbed out.  A double by Brittany Lastrapes in that fifth inning drew the Cats close to a run-rule win, but Katelyn Boyd responded for the Devils with a two-run homer to right field.  It was her 14th of the season.

Boyd is a sophomore who has enjoyed a fast start this year, leading the Sun Devils in hitting with a .459 batting average and 38 RBIs.

Lastrapes, the Cats’ left fielder, has been giving opposing pitchers fits all year.  In a game against St. Johns in mid-March she hit three home runs, tying an Arizona record.

Arizona also threw a youngster in the opening game, their sensational freshman, Kenzie Fowler, the 2008 and 2009 Gatorade National Player of the Year from Canyon del Oro High School in Tucson.  Coming into the series, she was 18-2 with a .071 ERA.

The early surge by the Cats, jumping to a five-run lead before the Devils could get a chance at the plate, put them back on their heels.  They’re used to getting the lead and keeping it.  When they scored first in the non-conference games, they were 23-1.

For those keeping score in the rivalry, last night’s win for the Cats put them ahead in the series, which began back in 1971, 96 wins to ASU’s 83.

This year, ASU had been really looking forward to this match-up, which will count toward the State Farm Territorial Cup Series, because they wanted a chance to get revenge for being swept by the Cats last year.

Alas, last night’s loss wasn’t a good start.