The No. 7 ASU softball team played California on Friday to Sunday in its second road Pac-12 series and left with high spirits after sweeping the weekend.
The Sun Devils (35-6, 9-3 Pac-12) improved with each outing against the Golden Bears (20-14, 3-4 Pac-12) and ended with two run-rule victories, including a shutout Sunday from senior pitcher Dallas Escobedo.
Escobedo was named Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week for her performances in the series after earning 23 strikeouts in 12 innings while only giving up six hits.
Ace pitching was not the only thing the Golden Bears had to overcome as they confronted a Sun Devil defense that played outstanding throughout all three games.
Sophomore second baseman Nikki Girard shined at second base with multiple diving plays and athletic reaches to stop runners, as did sophomore catcher Katee Aguirre, who laid down two key tags to stop runners from scoring Saturday.
Coach Craig Nicholson mentioned Saturday that he was most proud of his team’s defense, which continued to make plays even with a large lead.
The offense did its own part to make sure those leads were kept as the Sun Devils scored 27 runs in the three games while the Golden Bears were kept to only four.
Many of those runs came from home runs, with eight being blasted out from the Sun Devil bats, including multi-homer days from juniors catcher Amber Freeman and third baseman Haley Steele.
Freshman infielder Chelsea Gonzales showed her age is nothing to take for granted as she got three hits in bases-loaded situations for seven RBIs in eight at-bats. One of those came in a pinch-hitting situation when Nicholson put her in for senior right fielder Bailey Wigness because of her continued talent and power at the plate.
There was almost nothing bad to be said about the entire series for the Sun Devils. This was probably the first full series this season that they executed what Nicholson has been harping on since the beginning, getting all three stages of the game working in sync.
The Golden Bears had to change pitchers in each game, including the shortened run-rule victories. They also put little pressure on the Sun Devils offensively because of constant vigilance on the field, if they were even able to hit a ball against ASU’s powerful pitching staff.
All of this together led to a dominant outing for the Sun Devils on the road in a conference that Nicholson has said takes home field advantage very seriously.
The Sun Devils proved they can perform on another team’s turf and can put the Oregon State debacle behind them. The Sun Devils briefly moved to second in the Pac-12 before UCLA’s victory over Oregon knocked them back to third.
Now, they are back home and working for their next series against Utah beginning Thursday at 7 p.m.
Reach the reporter at Nkwit@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @NolanKwit