ASU softball pushes past Southern Illinois in NCAA

Blaylock, in her 22nd season, was ejected in the first inning Thursday night after Arizona State’s first four batters walked against Salukis’ ace Sarah Harness, who then gave up a two-run double to Yanni Acuna at Farrington Stadium.

The Salukis kept fighting, overcoming a 4-0 deficit to pull even in the fourth, before a two-run single by senior Bella Loomis in the bottom of the fifth lifted ASU to a 7-4 NCAA regional opening win.

ASU redshirt freshman pitcher Lindsay Lopez (16-5) threw a complete game in her postseason debut, shutting the Salukis down after giving up a three-run, game-tying homer to Maddy Vermejan in the fourth. 

ASU’s leading hitter, catcher Maddi Hackbarth, left the game in the top of the fourth and was replaced by freshman Harleigh Braswell, playing in just her seventh game.

“Maddi wasn’t feeling very well tonight,” ASU coach Trisha Ford said. “It came to a point where you have to look at the longer part of the weekend. I have complete confidence in Harleigh. She works her tail off and is that field rat. You never know when that opportunity is going to come, and she did a tremendous job.”

In the decisive ASU fifth, leadoff hitter Acuna was hit by a pitch then with one out DeNae Chatman singled to center. After a pitching change, Savannah Price walked, loading the bases, and Loomis singled to center. A third run in the frame came across on a fielder’s choice, but the insurance wasn’t needed as Lopez retired the Salukis in order in the final two innings.

“Lindsay did a good job keeping her composure and continuing to work,” Ford said. “She’s a great competitor and somebody who has kept us in a lot of games.

“Bella is in my secret in that nine hole. She does a great job turning over the lineup. In big situations with Kindra (Hackbarth) in the leadoff spot, they go at Bella, and she makes them pay. I wish I had a team full of Bellas.”

The game not only included a first-inning ejection but also heavy rain in the sixth inning before ASU’s largest crowd of the season given an increase to 50 percent capacity. Umpire Smith drew the ire of both sides with a strike zone that Southern Illinois described on its social media as being the size of a postage stamp.

“It felt super cool,” outfielder Jazmine Hill said of the atmosphere. “It helped to give us a lot of confidence and pumped us up.”

Lopez allowed just four hits and struck out five. She could be pitching again Friday against Virginia Tech, which features ACC Pitcher of the Year Keely Rochard (26-8), who threw a complete game vs. BYU.

Madi Eberle (9-7), the third of three Saluki pitchers, took the loss against ASU.

Ford said she gave her players bouncy balls during their time off before the regional to get across the message of bouncing back harder from adversity. The Sun Devils were playing their first game since May 9.

“It’s going to be hard,” she said. “You don’t know what is going to get thrown at you. I had a feeling we’d get a really tough regional so our effort as a staff was to concentrate on embracing the hard. Sometimes you have to outhit somebody.”Arizona Cardinals a Top 10 team in 2021 NFL season? NFL power rankings weigh inShould Suns give rookie Jalen Smith opportunity against size of Lakers?Arizona football: Jedd Fisch among worst Power 5 coaches in college football, ranking saysEduardo Escobar expresses frustration after short-handed Diamondbacks swept by DodgersPhoenix Suns’ 2021 NBA playoffs hype video features Charles Barkley, Dan Majerle

More:ASU softball carrying lesson from Oregon State series into postseason

More:ASU, Arizona softball will host NCAA Tournament regionals

Reach the reporter at or 602-444-8053. Follow him on Twitter @jeffmetcalfe.

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