Video by Nolan Kwit | Sports Reporter
Thursday’s victory was special for coach Craig Nicholson.
The ASU softball team took home its fourth straight conference victory Thursday, 5-1 against Utah (16-17, 3-9), but it was not the way his girls played that will stick with Nicholson, it’s the memory of his 1000th career victory that will be ingrained in his mind.
“The biggest thing about tonight is that we got another win, honestly,” Nicholson said. “Milestones are just kind of there; it’s something you pass along the way. It’s about preparing this team for what’s left of this season and what we want to get to this season.”
It’s unfortunate it couldn’t have come during a more exciting game, but the Sun Devils (36-6, 10-3 Pac-12) did look impressive in the first with a four-run outing to begin the game.
Junior catcher Amber Freeman doubled to score senior center fielder Alix Johnson from first base on a drive that just barely hugged the right field line. Freeman scored off a single from junior right fielder Elizabeth Caporuscio and freshman designated hitter Chelsea Gonzales continued her hot streak with a two-RBI single.
Gonzales now leads the Sun Devils with 16 RBIs in Pac-12 play.
The rest of the game lacked many memorable qualities with the eventual win being the most exciting part of the night.
“We were pretty much coasting the rest of the game and we need to do a better job at making sure that, great it’s 4-0 in the first inning but we got to make sure we play seven innings and don’t take anything for granted,” Nicholson said.
Senior pitcher Dallas Escobedo only stuck out eight batters, a relatively low number for the ace starter.
“It’s funny because tonight probably wasn’t the most spectacular night of her year,” Nicholson said. “But sometimes you’ve got to be able to pitch like that too.”
Escobedo only gave up three hits on the night with one home run while hitting two batters, including one with the very first pitch of the game.
This is the fourth conference victory in a row, with the Sun Devils winning nine of their last 10 games.
There was a flood of emotion on the field after the game with a celebration for Nicholson’s milestone accomplishment.
It takes a lot to make the big man shed a tear but when congratulation messages from old players resounded over the speakers nobody could blame him for getting teary-eyed.
Nicholson received a plaque and posed for pictures with a Sun Devil team that was proud to have him as a coach.
“If feels great, we all got a chance to write him some notecards and congratulations,” Escobedo said. “It’s just awesome, it’s a great milestone in his career with many more to come.”
Nicholson has been around the team for the past eight months after moving here from Ball State. Most of his wins over the years have not come while representing ASU but that doesn’t shadow the accomplishment in the least.
This is another first for the new coach that bonds his team even more looking into the rest of conference play. Nicholson has guided the team well and with this achievement, only gains more respect from players like Gonzales.
“He’s a lot of fun to be around,” Gonzales said. “He’s really funny and kind of sarcastic but it’s just a good vibe to the team. But when it comes to playing, we’re all so serious and we all get serious right away. He’s definitely a good coach and a good teacher and he’s fun to be around. “
The Sun Devils return to Farrington Stadium Friday for their game against Utah beginning at 5 p.m.
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