Sun Devils cruise through regional play

It was a classic pitcher’s duel for six innings. After that, the ASU softball team’s offense got involved.

The No. 1 Sun Devils (53-6) sent freshman pitcher Dallas Escobedo to the circle in need of just one more win in the Tempe Regional.

Like she has all season long, Escobedo delivered with yet another stellar pitching performance.

Behind Escobedo’s seven innings of one-run softball and plenty of run support from her teammates, the Sun Devils defeated San Diego State 6-1 in the Tempe Regional championship game on Sunday.

With that victory, ASU advances to the Super Regional round of postseason play. The Sun Devils will host Texas A&M in a three game series next weekend in Tempe.

After limiting the Aztecs (34-21) to just one run, ASU outscored its regionals opponents 24-1.

“I think it showed character,” ASU coach Clint Myers said. “We talked about it after the game. Great teams find ways to win. Again we had a lot of people stepping up to do a lot of great things.”

After handing Long Beach State an 8-0 loss in Saturday’s second game, the Sun Devils returned to Farrington Stadium Sunday afternoon.

As the visiting team, the Sun Devils stepped up to the plate in the top of the first against SDSU senior pitcher Samantha Beasley.

Junior shortstop Katelyn Boyd wasted no time in putting ASU on the board. She rocketed a 3-2 pitch to straight away center field for her 17th home run of the season.

She now leads the nation in leadoff home runs this season with six.

With a quick 1-0 lead, Escobedo took to the circle for the third consecutive game.

She was her usual dominant self early on, allowing just one base runner to reach through the first two innings.

In the second, ASU managed to load the bases with nobody out. However, Beasley notched a strikeout and a pair of groundouts to escape the threat.

Meanwhile, Escobedo held the Aztecs hitless through 3 1/3 innings. Junior first baseman Justeen Maeva broke up the no-hit bid with a single to left in the fourth.

Escobedo quickly erased the base runner by inducing a spectacular 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.

One inning later, the Aztecs once again looked to be in a position to score.

Back-to-back singles by freshman left fielder Lorena Klopp and senior catcher Eva Sahatdjian placed the tying run in scoring position.

Escobedo then faced sophomore Kristin May as the pinch hitter.

For the second time in as many innings, Escobedo received a vital double play to preserve the shutout. May lined out to sophomore second baseman Sam Parlich who made the throw to senior first baseman Mandy Urfer at first to complete the double play.

“It was great,” Escobedo said. “Turning double plays in key moments, I still can’t believe it. I have total confidence in Boyd, Sam, Krista, Urfer, they all have my back.”

Escobedo received a little more run support thanks to junior right fielder Annie Lockwood in the top of the sixth.

Lockwood crushed her third home run of the weekend to deep left field to inch ASU ahead 2-0.

However, the Aztecs weren’t finished yet.

With one out in the bottom of the sixth, senior second baseman Lindsey Marquez walked before freshman center fielder Hayley Miles was hit by a pitch.

One batter later, Maeva smacked an RBI single to center to cut the deficit to one.

After a sacrifice bunt by senior shortstop Jen Wisneski advanced both runners, sophomore designated player Kamerin May flew out to end the inning.

In the seventh, the ASU bats finally came alive against Beasley.

“I think them scoring actually gave us a little bit of a kick in the butt to get things going,” Boyd said. “You never like facing that, but how we responded was positive.”

Boyd got the scoring started with an RBI single to right field. With runners on first and third, senior catcher Kaylyn Castillo smacked a sacrifice fly to center field that scored Boyd.

Following Castillo, Lockwood drilled an RBI double off the left field wall to make it 5-1. Senior third baseman Krista Donnenwirth then collected an RBI single to knock Beasley out of the game.

Escobedo entered the bottom of the seventh, looking for three outs to seal the decisive victory.

The right-hander received a groundout, strikeout, and a weak fly out to capture her 30th win of the season and her 28th complete game.

As the Sun Devils advance further into the postseason, they realize the opposition will only get more challenging.

“We have to play good softball,” Myers said. “The softball is going to get better from here on out. We have Texas A&M coming in, and then hopefully move on to the college world series.”

Reach the reporter at greg.dillard@asu.edu