Softball splits openers of Judi Garman Classic

ASU senior pitcher Hillary Bach launches a pitch against New Mexico State on March 11. Bach pitched her seventh shutout of the season Thursday against BYU. (Photo by Sam Rosenbaum)

Usually the No. 5 ASU softball team is making their opponents change pitchers. Rarely is it the other way around.

So far Sun Devil opponents have made 32 pitching changes, placing the average at 1.14 changes per game. Yet No. 10 Louisiana Lafayette returned the favor, forcing the Sun Devils to take the ball from star sophomore pitcher Dallas Escobedo (9–2, 2.73 ERA) for the first time since April 9 of last year in a 9–2 defeat Thursday night.

“She just had a bad night,” ASU coach Clint Myers said. “It doesn’t change her as a person or change her as a pitcher. She’s a great person and a great pitcher but she just had a bad night.”

ASU (26–3) opened the Judi Garman Classic by shutting down its opponent’s bats, recording the team’s 12th shutout of the season against BYU. But the bats weren’t that effective.

The 3–0 win was a breath of fresh air, though, as it was the first shutout for the Sun Devils (25–2) in seven games. It also came after the team had its worst pitching performance in a tournament this season at the Diamond Devil Invitational.

Hillary Bach (13–0, 0.57 ERA) collected her seventh shutout, scattering five hits and two walks over seven innings.

“She worked her way out of a pickle and a couple of jams,” Myers said. “We had a great defensive play by Sam Parlich at second.”

The team scored all of its runs in the third inning off of a triple by senior shortstop Katelyn Boyd, a single from sophomore outfielder Alix Johnson and a sacrifice fly from freshman outfielder Elizabeth Caporuscio.

The usually efficient Sun Devils struggled to produce runs even though the team had seven hits in the game. Johnson, the team’s leader in batting average, was the only player to have a multi-hit game.

BYU freshman pitcher Caroline Umphlett started the game strong but was replaced by junior Hannah Howell after giving up three runs in the third inning. The Sun Devils have forced a change in six straight games and in 13 of its past 15 games.

Then came the Ragin’ Cajuns.

ULL freshman pitcher Jordan Wallace (12–0, 2.17 ERA) smothered the Sun Devil lineup, carrying a one hitter into the sixth inning against the reigning national champions.

Boyd’s solo home run in the sixth broke up Wallace’s shutout bid, and Johnson’s follow-up triple gave ASU their first momentum of the game. But the first-year pitcher shook off the pressure situation and got out of the inning only allowing two runs.

“They played better than we did,” Myers said. “They outhit us, they out pitched us … it was one of those games we just lost.”

The key to the game was the offense as ULL put 17 runners on base as compared to seven for the Sun Devils. Escobedo continued to struggle with the long ball and the Ragin Cajuns hit two of them to score four of their five runs against her. She has now allowed 10 homeruns this season.

ASU faces off against Fresno State and No. 19 Michigan on Friday and Notre Dame on Saturday to end the Judy Garman Classic in Fullerton, Calif.

“The mindset is the same, we don’t change that,” Myers said. “We have got to play Arizona State softball.”

Reach the reporter at jjmckelv@asu.edu

Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook. Click here to subscribe to the daily State Press email newsletter.