Talented young pitchers give ASU softball a bright future

It took almost 10 years for Arizona State softball to finally sweep a series from their Pac-12 rival in Tucson.

But there’s a good chance it won’t take that long next time.  The No. 13 Sun Devils have a young and potent pitching duo that handcuffed the No. 8-ranked University of Arizona, and will be around for a few more tries.

Freshman sensation Allison Royalty and sophomore Lindsay Lopez worked together like a well-oiled machine to keep a lid on the Wildcat hitters for three of four games over the weekend to help the Devils pull off their first sweep of the Cats since 2012.

Royalty, a dominating right hander, and the lefty Lopez make a powerful one-two punch in the circle.

The duo took a tag-team approach to the weekend series, with Royalty (In photo, right) starting in the circle and Lopez coming in mid-game for the three games the Sun Devils won.  In the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, the pair held Arizona to a single run, the fewest scored by the Wildcats in 16 games, to post an 8-1 win.

Arizona picked up a lone win in the nightcap of Saturday’s doubleheader by exploding for 12 runs in the third and fourth innings to coast to a 15-1 victory.  Senior Cielo Meza took the loss, pitching all five innings in the run-ruled contest.

The Pac-12 schools agreed this season to play a four-game series each weekend of conference play, with three of those games counting toward the conference record.  Saturday’s ASU loss will go down as a non-conference match-up.

Lopez, who had a standout prep career at Poston Butte High School in the San Tan Valley, was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week for her performance against rival Arizona.  The sophomore is eligible for the award since the conference has made freshmen and sophomores eligible for the award due to the COVID-shortened 2020 season.

Royalty and Lopez also teamed up to take a series from No. 6 Washington earlier in the schedule.  In the 6-1 victory that clinched the series win, the Devils used three home runs to back up the pitching success.

ASU is 27-11 on the season, due to more than just good pitching.  There are seven players with better than a .300 batting average, led by fifth-year senior Maddi Hackbarth who leads the team with a .400 batting average.  Her twin sister, Kindra, is third on the list at .374, and junior Makenna Harper sits between the siblings with a .385 average.

Maddi Hackbarth also leads the conference with 18 home runs, but the Sun Devils have power across the roster.  Thirteen players have at least one home run this season.

ASU used three of those round trips to beat Arizona in the final game of the weekend series, as DeNae Chatman parked two over the fence and Malia Martinez added a two-run homer to secure the 4-3 victory.

But it’s going to be solid pitching that will enable the Sun Devils to advance in the postseason.  And that’s when the young’uns will get a chance to really show what they can do.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)