CRONKITE SPORTS

Torres, Preston shine in Kajikawa Classic as ASU softball starts strong

Feb 14, 2020, 6:14 PM | Updated: Feb 18, 2020, 7:16 am
ASU freshman shortstop Alynah Torres prepares to hit at the plate in the Kajikawa Classic. (Photo b...
ASU freshman shortstop Alynah Torres prepares to hit at the plate in the Kajikawa Classic. (Photo by Nathan Hiatt/Cronkite News)
(Photo by Nathan Hiatt/Cronkite News)

TEMPE – Alynah Torres and Madison Preston certainly had themselves impressive Sun Devil softball debuts.

ASU finished 4-2 in the Kajikawa Classic at Farrington Stadium. Torres, a freshman shortstop, and Preston, a junior transfer left-handed pitcher, shined, along with senior pitcher Cielo Meza and freshman outfielder Jazmine Hill.

“I am really excited about what Alynah and Jazmine have brought to the table this weekend,” ASU coach Trisha Ford said. “I thought they handled themselves really well. I thought Preston was a superstar in the circle, along with (Meza), don’t get me wrong. … (Preston) is new, so it was good to see that happen.”

Preston pitched just 12.2 innings last season at Alabama, but she already surpassed that total as she threw 13 innings in the Kajikawa Classic. In her debut weekend, Preston came in relief against Kansas, Western Michigan, Northwestern and Tennessee and had 20 strikeouts while allowing only four hits.

ASU junior pitcher Madison Preston jogs off the field after a win and her first outing in a Sun Devil uniform as a transfer from Alabama in the Kajikawa Classic. (Photo by Nathan Hiatt/Cronkite News)

“I feel really good, but the thing is I am not satisfied and I know that my team isn’t either and I know my coach isn’t,” Preston said. “I feel like we just need to keep pushing and take the good and the bad from this weekend and apply it for the rest of the season.”

Although Preston impressed in the circle, she had to mention that she was extremely impressed with Torres and Hill, saying the freshmen didn’t blink as starters and played as if they had been on the college stage before. Hill hit a home run in her first collegiate at-bat against Portland State, and she finished the Kajikawa Classic with a .339 batting average and four RBIs.

Ford echoed that.

“I know they are dynamic,” Ford said. “They are going to have ups and downs this year, but they are special. … I think they are just going to get better and better, and they are going to be fun to watch for many years.”

Torres arguably had the brightest performances, though, as she finished the Kajikawa Classic with a .429 batting average, producing nine hits, three home runs and six RBIs. This was especially impressive, considering she had not been slated as the starting shortstop with senior Jade Gortarez on the Sun Devils roster.

However, shortly before the season began, ASU announced that Gortarez was no longer on the team, opening a spot for Torres.

“I surprised myself a little bit,” Torres said. “Because coming in as a freshman, you don’t really know how college works. I think I was just going in simple, just trying to get on base and help my team as much as possible.”

Everything was exciting but also nerve-wracking for Torres as she started her collegiate career in Tempe.

With a strong mindset and preparation, Torres quickly found a groove and became comfortable. She hit home runs against Kansas, Northwestern and Seattle.

“It was honestly really fun,” Torres said. “I have hit home runs before, but I have never been so happy to actually hit a home run and get my team on the board. That experience feels like nothing (I can remember) because I worked so hard to get to this point.”

When Torres heard about the praise she gained from her team, she smiled.

“I mean, it is awesome,” Torres said. “These are like my best friends, so I am happy that they trust me to play shortstop for them and to hit.”

ASU freshman right fielder Jazmine Hill in the outfield during the Kajikawa Classic. (Photo by Nathan Hiatt/Cronkite News)

In the Kajikawa Classic this past weekend, ASU experienced just about everything as the Sun Devils started the new season, facing many different situations and some adversity.

ASU started the season No. 22 in the initial poll and stands at No. 23 in the latest poll afterward.

“We are just going to continue to get better and better,” Ford said.

ASU started with an impressive 10-0 run-rule win in five innings on Friday against Portland State as Meza was an out away from a perfect game. Later that night, the Sun Devils trailed 4-0 against Kansas, only to make a comeback to win 8-5.

ASU returned to Farrington Stadium on Saturday but started with a 9-7 loss to unranked Western Michigan. ASU responded with a 6-5 win against then-No. 14 Northwestern, thanks to a walk-off two-run home run from senior outfielder Kindra Hackbarth.

After that, Meza returned to the circle on Sunday and threw the 30th individual no-hitter in ASU history in a 7-0 win against Seattle.

ASU was supposed to finish the Kajikawa Classic on Monday against No. 12 Tennessee, but weather had a different idea. Tennessee led 4-0 in the fourth inning before the game was postponed, then the Volunteers finished with a 8-5 win as ASU squandered too many opportunities late.

As ASU moves into the Littlewood Classic in Tempe with games against No. 10 Kentucky, Boise State, Illinois State and Detroit-Mercy this weekend, Ford is ready for the Sun Devils to continue to improve on the little things.

“We have (a lot of) fight,” Ford said. “That was probably the biggest thing that I was proud of. We are not out of any game. … We did some things that are uncharacteristic, but we are young. I think that it is just going to be a year where we do some things that I am going to be like, ‘Ugh’, and then we are going to work on them. It will come, but I really liked the heart and how close-knit we are and that toughness.”

 

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Torres, Preston shine in Kajikawa Classic as ASU softball starts strong