Head coach Kim Sowder’s Long Beach State softball team won’t be easing into its first three-game series of the season.
After starting the season with six tournaments, the 49ers will travel to face defending national champion Arizona State at Farrington Stadium in Tempe, Ariz. The teams will play Friday at 7 p.m. and a doubleheader Saturday starting at 3 p.m.
No. 6-ranked ASU (25-5) has won 12 of its last 13 games, including five contests scoring 10 runs or more and five mercy-rule victories.
LBSU (19-10) is 3-0 in designated road games, 3-3 against ranked opponents and 1-2 against the Pac-10 Conference.
The Sun Devils are 18-1 at home and expected to test 49er starting pitchers Brooke Turner and Taylor Petty, as 10 players are hitting .300 or higher.
Senior center fielder Kaitlin Cochran, a three-time first-team All-American, leads the ASU attack with a .441 batting average, nine home runs and 30 RBIs. Freshman shortstop Katelyn Boyd will enter the series with a .378 average and team-high 31 RBIs.
The ‘Niners counter with senior third baseman Jennifer Griffin, who’s leading the team in all three Triple Crown categories with a .349 average, six homers and 22 RBIs.
Junior shortstop Ashley Levine has been swinging a hot bat as of late, as she posted a .563 average (9-for-16) and .588 on-base percentage in five games at the National Invitational Softball Tournament in San Jose last weekend.
The Redondo Beach native also added six RBIs and connected for her first career home run in LBSU’s lone loss of the tournament against UNLV.
In the pitcher’s circle, Sun Devils freshman Hillary Bach (14-1) is the ace of the staff with a 1.94 ERA and six shutouts. She’s fanned 73 batters over 93 2/3 innings and the opposition is hitting .232 against her.
The Beach possesses a formidable 1-2 punch in the circle.
Turner (10-5), a sophomore, has struck out 87 batters in 89 2/3 innings of work to go with a 2.03 ERA, four shutouts and ranks second on the team with a .228 opposition batting average. The right-hander already owns two wins against Top-15 programs, including no-hitting No. 3 UCLA for 5 1/3 innings en route to a 2-1 victory March 8.
Petty (8-1) has made an immediate impact in her freshman season, much like Turner did last year. The right-hander holds a 1.01 ERA, .218 opposition batting average and 67 strikeouts in 69 1/3 innings. Earlier this season, she hurled 38 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings.