ASU softball traveled to Berkley, Calif., for its series against conference competitor California and opened up hot, despite some light rain, and won the first game of the series 7-2.
The Sun Devils (33-6, 7-3 Pac-12) did not let a bit of weather bother them at the plate and came out powerfully with a grand slam from junior left fielder Elizabeth Caporuscio.
Caporuscio swung at her first pitch when she came to the plate and earned the first grand slam of her career, bringing her average to .556 with bases loaded. Her single swing would provide all the runs the Sun Devils would need for the eventual victory, but the team did not slow down there.
The Sun Devils never relinquished the pressure on the Golden Bears’ (20-12, 3-2 Pac-12) defense and, with bases loaded, scored two in the third inning off a single from freshman designated hitter Chelsea Gonzales.
Coach Craig Nicholson mentioned earlier in the week the importance of home field advantage against any Pac-12 team, but scoring runs like this early can stop that problem before it becomes an issue.
“Anytime you’re on the road and you can score on the first inning and have the lead even before the pitcher reaches the mound is a bonus,” Nicholson said. “I just think it puts you in a position to be able to dictate the game a little bit. Especially first game of the series, we’re going to jump out and take that early lead it definitely sets a tone.”
The four-run opening was most appreciated by senior pitcher Dallas Escobedo, who started in the circle for the Sun Devils. Before she even stepped in the circle, the Sun Devils had a bigger lead than they would need.
Escobedo didn’t let the offense outshine her and began the game with four strikeouts in the first two innings. She did have one slip up in the third inning after a home run from junior shortstop Cheyenne Cordes scored the Golden Bears’ only two runs of the game.
She gained 13 strikeouts on the night while only walking two, but she is known to give up home runs; Friday’s was the 13th she’s given up this season.
Her number do speak for themselves, with Escobedo picking up her 15th win of the season, and it’s because of the amazing stats that Nicholson does not worry when he sees one soar over the fence.
“Every once in a while, they’re going to catch one. It’s the trade off with Dallas,” Nicholson said. “You love the strikeouts but occasionally you’re going to give up a home run.”
The Golden Bears couldn’t do much else to stop the Sun Devils, even while being on their own turf in some rain and breeze, but they did slow the bleeding with a pitching change in the fourth.
By that time, the damage was done and the Sun Devils were walking away with their first victory of the series, while setting themselves up well for the rest of the weekend.
“Whether you’re home or on the road, it’s good to get the first one under your belt,” Nicholson said. “Obviously we’re trying to win three games to stay on top of the pac-12.”
The Sun Devils return to the field Saturday at 3 p.m. with senior Mackenzie Popescue going for ASU in the circle.
Reach the reporter at Nkwit@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @NolanKwit