The fourth-ranked Arizona State softball team completed a three-game scoreless sweep of Southern Mississippi, 5-0, Sunday afternoon in Tempe, with home runs off the bats of Cheyenne Coyle and Haley Steele.
Mackenzie Popescue (20-1, 1.41 ERA) threw seven strikeouts for the Sun Devils (42-7), who defeated the Golden Eagles (22-28) 8-0 and 6-0 Friday and Saturday.
“I just kept low and did my thing,” said Popescue, who also won Friday. “Teams that are non-conference, I can spare them a little more, throw them a little off the plate, over exaggerate my drop a little, and it worked out.”
After Popescue escaped the second inning with runners on second and third, Coyle smacked her two-run home run in the third inning with one out, driving in Bailey Wigness, who was 2-for-2 on the day. Steele connected on a solo shot to lead off the sixth with two strikes, her 10th of the season, which is the same total for Coyle. Also in the sixth, Katie Aguirre drove home pinch runner Abby Spiel with a triple. Wigness would then deliver in Aguirre with a single to complete the scoring.
“We had some good adjustments later in the game,” ASU coach Craig Nicholson said. “We chased our balls, and we need to continue to be a little more consistent with what we’re doing at the plate. We accomplished what we wanted to accomplish this week. We need to come out with passion every time we come out.”
Samantha Robles (6-13) suffered the loss on the mound for the Golden Eagles, as she split three innings each with Shelbee Rodgers. Each recorded one strikeout.
ASU hosted Southern Miss, which is in seventh place in Conference USA, rather than rest during a bye week in its league schedule.
“It was good for people to get swings,” Coyle said. “It’s always nice seeing a live pitcher instead of having a bye week.”
The Eagles boast five players from Arizona: Taylor Beck of Mesa, Danielle Block of Phoenix, Kaitlin Wilson of Sierra Vista, Morgan McKeever of Tucson, and Peyton Garner of Gilbert. Co-head coaches Jon Malgradi and Kristen Voak both graduated from ASU, and Malgradi was formerly the coach of Mesa Community College.
The Sun Devils hit the road and continue the Pacific-12 season at No. 1-ranked Oregon next weekend beginning Friday, before wrapping up the regular season at home versus No. 2 UCLA May 8-10.