ASU softball brings one-two pitching punch to super regional
TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona State softball pitcher Giselle Juarez has a colorful history with senior pitcher Breanna Macha.
“I hit her in high school by accident,” Juarez said.
Juarez of Glendale Mountain Ridge High School and Macha of Mesa Red Mountain competed against each other in 6A high school softball. The two ASU pitchers faced each other at Farrington Stadium in the 2014 6A championship.
“The first time we met here, playing each other,” Juarez said. “It was kind of cool to see how our relationship has evolved to see where we started and to see where we’re ending on this field.”
Four years later, the two pitchers take the mound at Farrington Stadium as teammates, returning to the stadium to play No. 9 South Carolina in the best-of-three NCAA Softball Tournament Super Regional starting Friday.
“We’ve got a great one-two punch with those two. I’m just excited to watch them compete,” coach Trisha Ford said.
The transition from competitors to teammates is one Ford describes as comparable to siblings who were lifelong rivals.
“(They) start to understand each other and realize they can come together and how much stronger we are when they really work together,” Ford said.
In 2018, Juarez has advanced into a star role for the Sun Devils, boasting a 0.88 ERA and being grouped with famous ASU athletes, including Barry Bonds.
Putting up record-high numbers including 17 strikeouts in the Sun Devils’ California series and throwing a no-hitter against BYU, Juarez, a sophomore, has contributed to ASU’s postseason run just a year after undergoing her second consecutive hip surgery in 2017.
“She has single-handedly taken this team on her shoulders, and we’re running with her,” Ford said. “To me, I just feel sorry for our opponents because she uses it as fuel. You look at what she has done single-handedly from last year to this year. You look at our offensive support. She’s done just a tremendous job.”
Macha has been “lights out,” the last six weeks, according to Ford. In the two-game series against Ole Miss, Macha surrender only one run and struck out 12 in nine innings.
And though teammates including Macha have said Juarez has been the key to the Sun Devils’ super regional berth, their first since 2013, Juarez says it’s a saying that they’ve carried since the Cal series that the two pitches follow.
“I have your back,” Juarez said. “Being able to look up to (Macha) is definitely huge to me.”
And though the two pitchers may compete for innings on the mound, Ford links the team’s success to the two pitchers’ ability to have each other’s back and work together.
“I honestly think that’s been our key to our success is both of them being who they are and allowing us to grow,” Ford said. “They’re kind of the team within the team.”
The Sun Devils play their three-game series against South Carolina with the hopes of advancing to the College World Series in Oklahoma City. For seniors, including Macha, this is the best way to end four years of Sun Devil softball.
“It gives me chills,” she said. “This has been my dream to go to Oklahoma City and just to compete at this level. When you’re being recruited, you want to play for that national championship. Over the time, it’s been a roller coaster.”
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