No. 21 ASU softball faces its toughest test of the season against the top-ranked UCLA Bruins in a three-game home series.
Just when it looked like the team had gained some momentum, Arizona State softball encountered yet another reality check this past weekend.
Against in-state rival Arizona, the Sun Devils dropped three straight, failing to plate a single run over the weekend series.
And the road doesn’t get any easier for Trisha Ford and her squad.
The 21st-ranked Sun Devils (25-11, 5-4 Pac-12) now take on the top team in the nation in No. 1 UCLA (32-1, 6-0 Pac-12) this weekend at home.
The Bruins currently hold a 16-game winning streak coming into the weekend, including series sweeps of Pac-12 schools Washington and Cal.
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The lone loss for the Bruins this season came Mar. 1 in a 3-1 loss to Michigan. But since then UCLA has been perfect both on the road and at home.
And while ASU enters the series with a winning conference record (5-4), the team will need at least two victories this weekend to maintain a record above .500.
In conference play, ASU pulled out series victories over Oregon St. and Utah, before dropping three games to Arizona.
But perhaps the toughest aspect of the UCLA team comes from the outstanding pitching rotation the Bruins have.
Led by redshirt junior Rachel Garcia, UCLA currently owns a team earned run average of 1.04 and is among the top rotations in the country. Garcia leads the group with a 0.54 ERA, 14-0 record and 147 strikeouts this season.
And while ASU may boast one of the deepest batting lineups in the nation, it will crucial for the Sun Devils to get on the board.
UCLA has held opponents to only 44 runs this season, while pilling on 235 offensive runs. The Bruins have also restricted their opponents to a .152 batting average, while striking out 280 of the batters they have faced.
Last season the Sun Devils dropped two of three against the Bruins, after winning the opener of the series 3-0.
The last time ASU was swept by UCLA came during the 2017 season.
ASU kicks off the series with the top-ranked Bruins Friday with first pitch scheduled for 5 p.m. PT.