ASU softball and Stanford fill scoreboard in extra-inning affair

What a way to break in the new scoreboard.

It was an offensive battle at Farrington Stadium for ASU softball during its first Pac-12 home series that brought the game against Stanford into extra innings before the eventual ASU victory 16-15.

It was a team effort from the Sun Devils (28-5, 2-2 Pac-12) to stay alive against a powerful Cardinal (23-8, 1-3 Pac-12) offense, but they led until the seventh inning when the whole game changed.

The Sun Devils had a 13-7 lead coming into the top of the seventh, and when it looked like it was just about finished for the Cardinal it came back for the biggest rally at Farrington this year.

 

 

The inning began with groundout with senior Mackenzie Popescue in the circle after relieving senior Dallas Escobedo in the fifth. That out would stand alone as the Cardinal put together a barrage of singles and walks for a five-run burst that would set Popescue down and bring Escobedo back into the game.

Escobedo’s first batter hit a three run shot to extend the lead before closing out the inning and losing the lead after the eight run attack.

ASU had to respond or lose the game it had dominated.

The crowd held its breath as junior first baseman Bethany Kemp began the inning and ripped a double down the third baseline that brought life into the ASU lineup before it succumbed to two quick outs.

Freshman Chelsea Gonzales singled to score Kemp, followed by a double by senior center fielder Alix Johnson that send Gonzales speeding around third for a play at home that she beat by inches.

Then, with Johnson on third, heartbreak happened.

Senior Bailey Wigness stepped to the plate and slapped a ball straight at the ground that barely scored Johnson at home before the first base umpire called it a foul off Wigness’s foot. Johnson was sent back to first, leading Wigness to eventually walk before a third out extended the game into extra innings.

Both teams battled it out until the Sun Devils were loaded the bases in the ninth inning only to have Girard step up to the plate for the first time of the night and be grazed by a pitch for the anticlimactic win of the nearly five-hour game.

The umpires were a huge factor in the game as well, calling a number of strikes that sent the Sun Devil faithful into fits of anger. Junior catcher Amber Freeman saw the calls from both sides of the plate and said it they greatly affected the game.

“From first inning I went to the dugout and told my team he’s extremely tight so just hit your pitch, get what you’re looking for,” Freeman said. “He definitely squeezed both sides so I think it had a huge effect on the game.”

The small zone led to numerous walks on both sides that would lead to eventual runs, making it easy for the Sun Devil offense to back up a struggling Escobedo who was throwing her worst outing of the year thus far, with five earned runs and two homers in four innings.

“You could say it was terrible, that’s how I thought it was and that’s how it was,” Escobedo said.

She said that she knew she would be throwing a long game and knows that she did her job on the mound. Escobedo did get some relief though with the offense backing her up throughout the game after leaving most of the weight on her shoulders earlier in the season.

“Being able to go from Oregon State, where we barely hit and I felt like I pitched good enough to win and coming here and doing the complete opposite was amazing,” Escobedo said. “You never know what’s going to come.”

Nobody had any idea what was to come as this game put situations that neither team had seen before. It’s not often that a team has to respond to an eight-run collapse or that multiple calls at home are determined by milliseconds, but to coach Craig Nicholson games like this can have a huge impact on the season.

“In the long run it may do more for us to have to win a game like that and come back in the seventh inning and have a lot of things go wrong and still find a way to win,” Nicholson said. “Wins like that sometimes can really put a team in the right state of mind.”

There were big plays defensively as well, especially from Johnson who snagged two would-be homeruns off the bats of the Cardinal, with one being in extra innings that would have given Stanford a two-run lead.

But when it’s all said and done there was no one thing that won this game. It was determined by countless variables that lead to the longest and highest scoring Farrington has seen this year.

The Sun Devils will be back on the field Sunday evening at 7 p.m. to try and bring their Pac-12 record above .500, and hopefully do it in seven or less.

For the rest of tonight however, Johnson and her teammates can feel satisfied with their victory and know that they can succeed even if at times it looks bleak.

“We never quit, we never gave up so I’m very proud of my teammates and how we performed and I just think that shows we have a lot of heart,” Johnson said.

Reach the reporter at nkwit@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @NolanKwit

Correction: Because of a reporting error, the score was misrepresented.