Video by Nolan Kwit | Sports Reporter
Ending only a half inning away from a no-hitter against the No. 2 team in the nation is not a bad way to begin a series.
ASU softball held UCLA to a hitless game through six innings before taking the 2-0 victory and eliminating the Bruins (46-6, 17-5 Pac-12) from being crowned champions of the Pac-12.
The Bruins made one last ditch effort in the seventh inning and ended senior Sun Devil (44-8-1, 15-5-1 Pac-12) pitcher Dallas Escobedo’s no-hitter with back-to-back singles that finally erased the zeroes that plagued the board for UCLA.
This proved to be no problem for Escobedo, as she ended the inning with two consecutive fly outs to left field. It’s the ability to close out tough spots that makes Escobedo so difficult to hit against and why coach Craig Nicholson trusts her on the mound.
“I feel like there’s no panic in us after those two kids got hits,” Nicholson said. “It was no panic. We’re going to close this thing out; let’s go get it done.”
Escobedo struck out seven on the night but walked four. Pitching against the No. 2 team in the nation may be a daunting task for some, but Escobedo’s self-assurance on the mound was clear after a strikeout sat the first batter of the night.
“She never really looked like she was in trouble,” Nicholson said. “Just composed, competing and just pitching. “
The bullpen is where it began, and Escobedo said she felt great before the game while warming up with her catcher, junior Amber Freeman. This is the second big weekend for the duo after facing, and winning one, against top-ranked Oregon last weekend.
“Just coming off a great weekend in Oregon, I felt like we were all pretty pumped,” Escobedo said. “So maybe that adrenaline rush was in me.”
Freeman did more than just catch for Escobedo, as she blasted a two-run shot over the center field fence in the first inning to put up the only runs of the game.
She was one of the only players who could figure out the Bruins’ junior pitcher Ally Carda, and Freeman earned two of the Sun Devils’ five hits. Freeman said she felt relaxed in the box against Carda because they played together in Junior USA team games and that the home run pitch “literally felt like it slowed down.”
The ASU victory eliminated the Bruins from being named Pac-12 champions, allowing Oregon to clinch the Pac-12 for the second straight season.
Regardless of Pac-12 ranks, the postseason still looms over the softball world with the conclusion of this series, which is why the games now mean so much.
“This is a big series going into postseason and I think we need to play like this is the postseason,” Freeman said. “I think it’s really important for our seeding.”
The Sun Devils will be looking to clinch the series with a victory on Friday beginning at 5:30 p.m. at Farrington Stadium.
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