ASU softball is known for its strong pitching staff, and Thursday’s 8-0 win against the Drake Bulldogs was no different as pitcher and catcher became one to help ASU to another victory.
Senior pitcher Dallas Escobedo lit up the night with her powerful fastball, striking out 10 Bulldogs and allowing no runs, with the help of her partner behind the plate, junior catcher Amber Freeman.
Escobedo opened the night with six straight strikeouts as Bulldog after Bulldog hit nothing but air while fastballs whizzed into Freeman’s glove. This powerful start doesn’t just happen when Escobedo steps into the circle, but begins before the game when the two work in the bullpen.
“(Freeman) just looks at me, like ‘Are you serious?’ ” Escobedo said. “My complaint is usually that I’m throwing slow. She doesn’t need to say anything; she just gives me a look.”
Escobedo said that the transition to the field from the bullpen is when Freeman pumps her up and is “tremendous” for her in the circle. Freeman always keeps her cool and gives signs to Escobedo to improve certain aspects midgame, but the two laugh and keep it lighthearted when they can.
“I know Dallas like the back of my hand,” Freeman said. “We have a connection I would say. We just feed off each other and right now I think we’re in sync.”
Only two batters from Drake made it on base all night after a single from junior left fielder Sarah Ryan in the third inning and an error from senior centerfielder Alix Johnson allowed one more to make it safely in the fourth.
Besides those two blemishes, the Sun Devils were lights out defensively, and when Freeman wasn’t behind the plate working with Escobedo, she was leading the offense with a show of her own at the plate.
For Freeman, good things came in threes as she earned three hits, three runs, and three RBIs in her three at-bats on the night. She said they want to “win every inning” and focusing on that is what drives the offense.
The Sun Devils are also used to hitting top-class pitchers at practice as they do live hitting drills with Escobedo and senior starting pitcher Mackenzie Popescue, which is invaluable practice when playing other teams.
“When you see the best day in and day out, when you see someone else it’s a little easier,” Freeman said. “I think live at-bats really helps us.”
Freeman capped off her night with a towering solo shot to left-center field in the fifth inning, bringing the Sun Devils within one of a run rule.
The Sun Devils steamrolled the Bulldogs early after earning six runs in the first two innings, which was largely brought on by patience at the plate, a skill emphasized by coach Craig Nicholson in practice. The Sun Devils showed that they not only have the ability to hit the long ball but can also draw walks and let the junk go by.
“We talk about being patient when we’re at the plate and waiting but we’re being aggressive when we see a pitch that we want to hit,” Nicholson said. “We want to make sure we’re making the pitcher work.”
The Sun Devils will face Drake again this weekend in the Diamond Devil Invitational, a five-game tournament for ASU, which plays doubleheaders on both Saturday and Sunday.
The Sun Devils play Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Farrington Stadium against Seton Hall.
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