The first phase of the season couldn’t have gone any better for the ASU softball team. ASU ascended to No. 2 in the country and went 29-2.
“I think playing 31 games and only having two losses is a great accomplishment for this team, considering how young we are,” sophomore catcher Amber Freeman said. “We have played ranked opponents and played a lot of games and gained experience that way, so I think we’re ready (for conference play).”
After its successful nonconference slate, ASU plays No. 13 UCLA to begin Pac-12 play. From here on out, ASU will need to get as many wins as it can because of the consistently tougher schedule.
In phase two of ASU’s season, the Sun Devils take on the rest of the Pac-12. Eight of the nine conference teams are ranked, with Utah being the exception.
“I thought we were in a pretty good position,” ASU coach Clint Myers said. “We accomplished a lot of things of what we wanted to do. I think we’re as ready as we could be considering our youth. It’ll be the start of the season all over, because now it’s Pac-12.”
ASU won’t be granted any freebies against UCLA. The Bruins have the best fielding percentage in Division I (.986).
In the early going, UCLA’s strength has been swinging for the fences. As a team, UCLA has 43 home runs this year and rank third in home runs per game with 1.58.
ASU actually fairs better than the Bruins in that category, ranking second with 1.61 home runs per game and the Sun Devils lead Division I in slugging percentage (.617).
UCLA senior outfielder B.B. Bates has 13 home runs already, which ranks second in the country. In addition, UCLA sophomore utility/pitcher Ally Carda has 10.
In softball, pitchers rarely hit for themselves. Statistically, Carda is one of UCLA’s best hitters. On the mound, she’s the Bruins ace, with a 14-2 record and a 1.79 ERA.
“It just depends on the program,” Myers said of pitchers also hitting. “Mack(enzie Popescue) and Dallas (Escobedo) are pretty good hitters. It’s just that we put their focus on the pitching side, instead of having to split it.”
The switch from an invitational, when doubleheaders are commonly played, to a series provides clarity on the pitching rotation. The plan is to start Escobedo Friday and Sunday with Popescue pitching Saturday.
“It gives Dallas a day of rest, and we can always use her in relief,” Myers said. “Mack knows she’s going to get the ball at least once in all of these games. She’s really been working hard for that.”
ASU’s Saturday game against UCLA originally was scheduled to appear on Pac-12 Network, but the network is instead showing the Pac-12 Gymnastics championship during that time.
ASU will appear on the Pac-12 Network 11 times during the conference schedule.
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