Cold bats, fielding miscues doom Sun Devils in Kajikawa Classic finale

Arizona State battles Missouri State at Alberta B. Farrington Softball Stadium on Feb. 13. The Sun Devils scored a total of 25 runs through their first four games but were shut out against the Bears. (Alyssa Muir/MEDILL)

By Alyssa Muir
Medill Reports

TEMPE, Ariz. — Junior shortstop Alynah Torres hit a conventional single to left field in the bottom of the first inning of the Arizona State Sun Devils’ matchup against the Missouri State Bears on Sunday afternoon. The seemingly ordinary play, however, became the sole offensive bright spot of the day as the No. 21 Sun Devils failed to record another baserunner for the remainder of their 4-0 loss to the Bears in five innings.

Missouri State senior Steffany Dickerson was nearly perfect on the mound and finished the day with five strikeouts. The Oklahoma native retired 15 of the 16 batters faced and needed just 67 pitches to get through the game. Dickerson kept the Sun Devil batters guessing with a variety of pitches and was able to consistently get ahead in the count.

“We weren’t aggressive enough at the plate,” Arizona State assistant coach Jimmy Kolaitis said. “(We) fell behind in some counts. She was able to mix in the changeup and just kind of kept us off-balance. We came in trying to be a little bit more aggressive against her, and we just didn’t execute very well.”

With the bats going cold, the Sun Devils needed their defense and pitching to step up to the task.  Senior Marissa Schuld allowed two runs through four and one-third innings and kept Arizona State within striking distance. But the host team committed two errors in the final frame that led to a pair of unearned Bears runs and put the game out of reach.

“We got away with it last night,” Kolaitis said of the errors. “We kicked some balls last night, but we were able to come back with the bats. Today we weren’t able to recover, so that’s something we’re going to focus on this week.”

The Bears, who lost to the Sun Devils 7-3 on Friday, entered the matchup 0-4 on the season.

The Sun Devils finished their opening weekend in the Kajikawa Classic with a 3-2 record, including a win against Duke in walk-off fashion late Saturday night.

“There’s always some emotion from the night before,” Kolaitis said. “But for us to be the type of team that we need to be, we need to be better at that. (It was a) late night. We went until midnight. But we’ve got to be able to come out and perform better to be the caliber club that we want to be.”

For Kolaitis, the tournament wasn’t anything more than an evaluation tool as the team progresses toward their main focuses — conference and postseason play.

“It’s early in the year,” he said. “We’ve got a long way until we get to PAC-12 play. So, what we need to do is evaluate what we did very well this weekend and what we didn’t do well. And then that’s what we take this week into practice. … That’s what every week is until we get to PAC-12 play and into postseason.”

Alyssa Muir is a sports reporter at Medill from Tampa, Florida. You can follow Alyssa on Twitter at @alyssa_muir21.