Life as we know it is all about perspective, the way that we view events. The Arizona State softball team really needs some perspective right now.
Sun Devil softball was just kicked off the road to the Women’s College World Series. Heck, they didn’t even make it to the next stop down the road, the super regionals, falling over the weekend to Ole Miss and then North Carolina at the regional in Oxford, Miss.
But, as disappointing as that is, it might pale by comparison to what the ASU baseball team is living through. The guys playing hardball were just swept by rival University of Arizona in their second-to-last series on the schedule to clinch a losing season.
And that’s not the worst part of the story. With three games to go (against Utah), baseball’s record falls to 23-29, which earns the 2017 squad a dubious spot in the school’s history books. ASU has not had a losing season in 32 years, going back to the 1985 team that finished 31-35.
They are just the second team in the 58-year varsity era to fail to post a winning season – and the first team since 1999 to not even make it into the post-season.
Arizona swept the weekend series 5-6, 1-3, 5-9 to mark ASU’s fifth losing streak of the season that went at least three games. And even if the Devils beat Utah in all three final games of the season, it won’t be nearly enough to salvage their Pac-12 record, which has them in second-to-last place at 8-19.
With that said, there is no way to minimize the disappointment felt in Tempe over the No. 22-ranked softball team’s elimination from the Mississippi regional – especially after the euphoria of winning the regional opener, 9-3, in its first encounter with North Carolina when the offense churned out 12 hits and four home runs, the fourth time this season the Devils have hit four or more HRs in a single game.
But a 2-0 loss to Ole Miss in the second game set the stage for a re-match with the Tar Heels. Carolina built a 3-0 lead going into the seventh inning and the Devils mounted a comeback in the final frame that fell one hit short of pulling it out.
Nicole Chilson led off the seventh with a single, and two walks loaded the bases. Chelsea Gonzales hit into a fielder’s choice play to give ASU its first run and then Sashel Palacios poked a single to left to make it 2-3, with runners on first and second and two outs. But a pop fly to shortstop ended the rally, and the season.
While the baseball program stalled out after 31 consecutive winning seasons, the softball team continues its streak, notching No. 23 straight, and also concluded its 22nd straight 30-win season. The Devils finished 31-22, but couldn’t manage to get to .500 in conference, posting a 9-15 record for a tie for sixth place with Oregon State.
The softball program is playing under its third new coach since Clint Myers left for Auburn in 2013. That includes last season when the school used co-interim head coaches. But the result hasn’t changed much. The Devils failed to get past the regionals in each of the previous three years, and this year finds them stuck in the same rut.
For the last 13 years, ASU has made it into the NCAA Tournament, but hasn’t been able to advance to super regional play since 2013, when that team made it all the way to the WCWS for a second straight year.
Trisha Ford, who took over last June after fours seasons as the Fresno State head coach and nine before that as a Stanford assistant, will be happy to get this season behind her and begin building the program with her own recruits next year.
But the honeymoon period is over. This Pac-12 power got used to regular appearances in Oklahoma City during Myers’ turn at the helm.
How high a bar did he set for Ford? Myers won two national titles during his eight years in Tempe.
Getting eliminated in regional play isn’t going to be acceptable going forward.
(Photo: ASU Athletics)