After New Mexico State scored three runs to tie the game in the top of the seventh, Haley Steele smashed a walk-off grand slam to give the No. 19 Arizona State softball team an 11-7 win over the Aggies (8-7) Sunday to end the Diamond Devil Invitational at Farrington Stadium. It was the second consecutive Sunday that ASU (12-5) ended a tie game with a walk-off grand slam after one from Bethany Kemp defeated Oklahoma, 8-4, Feb. 15.
“I thought Haley at worst was going to hit a fly ball and score a run,” ASU coach Craig Nicholson said. “She had some good swings in this game, and I felt she was going to get the job done. We’re just trying to come back and trying to answer.”
Kelsey Dodd drove home pitcher Dallas McBride in the top of the second to give NMSU a 2-1 lead. Corrin Green then smacked a two-run home run with no outs in the top of the third to increase the lead to three.
In the bottom of the fourth, ASU centerfielder Jennifer Soria bounced a double off the second baseman’s glove to produce runners on second and third with one out. Abby Spiel’s double sent home Breona Peralta, and Sierra Rodriguez blasted a two-run double to the right field corner to knot the game at 4-4.
Amber Freeman led off the fifth with a home run, her team-high fifth of the season, to give ASU a one-run lead, and Chelsea Gonzales followed with a double. A bases loaded walk to Sierra Rodriguez scored Gonzales to complete the inning. Gonzales would add a solo home run in the bottom of the sixth, the third of her season.
Green doubled in the top of the seventh and scored two runs for the Aggies. McBride then tied the game at 7-7 with a sacrifice fly that brought home pinch runner Amy Bergeson. A walk to catcher Tatum Reedy loaded the bases with two outs, but Haley Nakamura grounded out to first.
“We don’t ever freak out,” Freeman said. “We know we can back up our pitchers, and we have a very strong lineup, so we just told (pitcher) Dale (Ryndak) we’d score some more runs for her.”
Soria led off the bottom of the seventh with a double that was just fair to right, and Spiel’s infield sacrifice moved her to third. After back-to-back walks, the second intentional to Elizabeth Caporuscio, Steele delivered the walk-off grand slam with one out.
Ryndak picked up the win (6-1) in three innings of relief of fellow freshman Breanna Macha, and McBride (1-4) suffered the loss.
ASU hosts Michigan, the team that eliminated it in the NCAA Regionals last May, in the Louisville Slugger Invitational at 4: 30 p.m. Friday. Binghamton and Toledo will also participate in that weekend-long event. NMSU is at UNLV to begin the Alexis Park Resort Classic Thursday, and the Aggies and Sun Devils will meet again for a doubleheader April 6 in Las Cruces, N. M.
“The biggest thing is just having a good week of practice, regardless of who we’re playing,” Nicholson said. “We need to worry about ourselves, getting to where we want to be as a ball club. I do think we are growing as a ball club and are improving.”