In victories over UC Davis and New Mexico State, the ASU softball team (25-1) proved it can win close games and also explode offensively.
Offensively, ASU only struck out twice in 64 plate appearances in the doubleheader.
“If you don’t put the ball in play you don’t give yourself a chance,” ASU coach Clint Myers said. I thought we did a pretty good job of that.
ASU actually trailed in the first game, but not for long. UC Davis (10-13) scored an unearned run in the first inning.
The Sun Devils quickly countered against freshman UC Davis pitcher Leah Munden. ASU junior outfielder Alix Johnson led off the game with an opposite-field home run.
ASU senior second baseman Sam Parlich hit two homeruns against UC Davis. Her second homer forced Munden out of the game.
In the third inning, junior pitcher Mackenzie Popescue allowed a rare homerun, just her third of the season.
Entering the game, UC Davis had only two home runs all season. For comparison, ASU now has 45 homeruns on the year. UC Davis is more of a speed-oriented team than a power-hitting one with 37 stolen bases on the season.
ASU pulled ahead in the bottom of the frame behind a seven-run output. Parlich hit the critical three-run home run with the game tied.
In the afternoon pitcher’s duel, ASU defeated New Mexico State (15-9) 6-0 behind junior pitcher Dallas Escobedo’s second consecutive shutout.
The score remained tight throughout, until ASU’s exploded for five runs in the seventh inning.
“I like pitching in those games a lot better than us scoring eight runs the first inning,” Escobedo said. “It definitely was a change because I don’t think we really had a game like that for a long time. It keeps me focused and it keeps me more in the game than my mind wandering.”
Escobedo allowed just two hits in seven scoreless innings. One of the hits was a cheap one. New Mexico State freshman third baseman Emma Adams hit a soft popup in the infield, near Escobedo. However, Escobedo lost the ball in the sun, and the ball didn’t arch high enough for another infielder to call off Escobedo in time.
Through the first four innings, ASU couldn’t score a run. They stranded seven runners in those innings.
“We’re a better ball club than that,” Myers said. “We got to be able to execute. You get people on base. The point is to score and we didn’t.”
In the second inning, sophomore outfielder Elizabeth Caporuscio was thrown out at home trying to score on a ground ball. Then in the third inning, Caporuscio grounded into a double play with the bases loaded.
The next inning, junior shortstop Cheyenne Coyle finally put the Sun Devils on the scoreboard with a solo homerun to left field that cleared the actual scoreboard.
Coyle had five hits in the doubleheader and was on base three more times in the nightcap Saturday.
“For me it’s a lot of the timing and seeing the ball,” Coyle said. “When I have my timing down I feel more confident when I’m up to bat.”
The game remained close until the seventh, when ASU started producing with runners in scoring position.
Sophomore catcher Amber Freeman drove in a run with a single to second. With two outs, Caporuscio made up for her earlier blunders with a two-run double to center. Sophomore first baseman Bethany Kemp capped off the inning with a two-run homer. Kemp had three hits in the game.
Freshman first baseman Nikki Girard had seen most of the time lately at first, but Myers decided to put Kemp in the lineup for a change.
“If you look at all of her at-bats in the last six at-bats, Beth has really been on fire and really stroking it well,” Myers said. “She deserved to be in there.”
Reach the reporter at Justin.Janssen@asu.edu