Twenty-one straight outs in softball is one of the greatest accomplishments a pitcher can earn, in the form of a perfect game or no-hitter, and this feat was within reach for ASU softball starting pitcher Dallas Escobedo on Friday night against the Oklahoma Sooners in ASU’s first game at the Littlewood Classic.
The No. 11 Sooners (4-3) were the first ranked team that the Sun Devils (8-0) would face under new coach Craig Nicholson, a sure challenge, but after a quick first inning Escobedo struck out the next five batters.
“I love that, it’s so exciting to me that I could shut them down back to back to back,” Escobedo said. “But they’re such a good team still and have great power and have to stay on your toes for any batter.”
Escobedo is known for her powerful speed and rising ball that the Sooners couldn’t figure out, but it wasn’t just getting safe that was the problem as at least one Oklahoma athlete struck out per inning, bringing Escobedo to a game total of 12.
Her fastball smacked into the glove of junior catcher Amber Freeman before most Sooners could even get their bats moving, but before practice Escobedo said that pitches weren’t breaking the way she wanted and Freeman helped get her mentally focused while warming up.
“I was really laid back mentally and focused,” Esobedo said. “Everyone was commenting on my vibe out there: walking around, taking my time, rushing me.”
Escobedo was aiming for a perfect game through five, already earning eight strikeouts, but lost it after a lazy popup from Oklahoma sophomore catcher Whitney Ellis popped out of the glove of sophomore second baseman Nikki Girard.
Escobedo kept it perfect for the next six outs, needing only one more to finish out a no-hitter after the error from Girard. OU sophomore infielder Shelby Pendley took the plate for the last out of the game and cracked one to the gap at shortstop, ending the possible chance for a no-hitter.
Special accolades aside, the performance by Escobedo astounded the ASU faithful and silenced the guests from Oklahoma from the first inning.
“We knew pretty early on that Dallas had great stuff tonight so when you have that going early it’s a big confidence builder,” Nicholson said.
Offensively, the Sun Devils were solid as they scored seven runs; with one being freshman designated hitter Chelsea Gonzales’ first homerun as a Sun Devil. Senior left fielder Elizabeth Caporuscio also slapped one up the middle to score two and progress her hitting streak to seven games.
The Sun Devils finished a late night game going until almost midnight against Southern Illinois Edwardsville with a final score of 5-2 behind senior Mackenzie Popescue on the mound.
The Sun Devils continue their winning streak and take home a meaningful win from their first day at the Littlewood Classic, but at the end of the day it’s just another “W” on the board.
“It’s one win and it’s a long journey,” Nicholson said. “We have to stay focused and not put too much on any one game.”
Reach the reporter at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @NolanKwit