In the 84th and final game of the 32-team Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, No. 18 Kentucky (5-1) handed No. 22 Arizona State (5-1) its first loss of the season Monday, 5-3, behind a two-run Christian Stokes home run in the top of the sixth. The game was scoreless the first four innings before each team posted three runs in the fifth.
“They’ll fight and learn to compete,” ASU co-interim coach Robert Wagner said of the opening weekend. “We had a good mix of speed and power. They’re still learning the fundamentals of the game, so we did a good job of that. Some kids stepped up, luckily we have some depth to play either who’s hot or a match-up situation.”
A double from Abby Spiel in the bottom of the third put runners on second and third with two outs, before Katee Aguirre grounded out to first for ASU. Chelsea Gonzales led off the fourth with a single to left, but she would be thrown out at the plate to end the inning.
ASU right fielder Nichole Chilson dove and just missed Rachael Metzger’s single to put Kentucky runners on the corners in the fifth. Maisie Steed drove in Ansley Smith with a fly out to right, then a Sylver Samuel single to center was overthrown on the play back to the infield, and Erin Rethlake and Hannah Huffman scored on the error.
The Sun Devils loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth, and Kelsey Nunley entered on the mound for the Wildcats. With two outs, Gonzales was inches away from a grand slam to left, but she still tied the game with a three-run double scoring Taylor Becerra, Jennifer Soria and Abby Spiel. Margaret Stahm flew out to end the inning.
“Today wasn’t our day but we’re going to come back,” Gonzales said. “I honestly thought it (her three-run double) was foul, so I did a little bit of jogging that I shouldn’t have done. I didn’t expect it to stay fair, but I was just excited I got to help my team out.”
With one out in the top of the sixth, the Kentucky senior shortstop Stokes smacked a home run, scoring Nikki Sagermann and gave her team a 5-3 advantage. Soria led off the seventh with a hit, then advanced to second on a Spiel ground out, where she would be stranded to conclude the game.
On the mound, Breanna Macha (3-1) went the complete game for the Sun Devils with two strikeouts, and survived a collision of teammates going for a fly ball. Nunley, who is preseason All-SEC, picked up the win in relief of Meagan Prince.
“There’s always something to learn offensively and defensively,” Macha said. “We had a game plan, it didn’t work out, but I’m excited to get the ball. My teammates got me the hits we needed. When we mess up, we just need to come back and do what we know how to do.”
The Sun Devils will take part in the Littlewood Classic in Tempe next weekend, beginning with games versus Michigan State at 6 p.m. and Memphis following on Friday. The Wildcats are at San Diego Thursday.