Video by Nolan Kwit | Sports Reporter
There was a moment when victory looked assured for ASU softball, but what looked promising fell short once UCLA pushed the game to extra innings for a 9-5 Bruins’ (47-6, 18-5 Pac-12) victory to tie the series.
The battle on the field looked nothing like Friday’s, with both teams getting big hits and earning crucial runs for a back-and-forth lead up through the sixth.
After six complete innings, the Sun Devils (44-9-1, 15-6-1 Pac-12) carried a one-run lead with senior ace pitcher Dallas Escobedo in the circle, and success looked inevitable until the Bruins took to the plate for what most people thought would be their final at-bats.
Junior pitcher Ally Carda is a one girl show on the diamond for the Bruins and can be just as dangerous at the plate as in the circle. With two outs in the seventh, only pitches away from ASU clinching the series, Carda hit a solo home run to center to tie the score 5-5 and force ASU to come to the plate.
“She made a good adjustment,” Escobedo said. “I was throwing her hard and inside and I kind of just left one hanging right there so it just went over.”
Then Carda did it again in the ninth inning with a runner on base. Her two-run shot put the score in the favor of the Bruins and it only got worse for the Sun Devils with another two-run homer going over the fence off the bat of sophomore third baseman Mysha Sataraka.
The Sun Devils never scored after the fifth inning and coach Craig Nicholson thought they missed opportunities to push a bigger lead and dropped the intensity in extra innings.
“I felt like our fight was pretty good through seven innings and I feel like when they hit that home run it kind of took the wind out of our sails a little bit,” Nicholson said.
The Bruins were on top of the Sun Devils’ pitching staff from the start even before Escobedo had to come in to relieve the starting pitcher, senior Mackenzie Popescue. Junior catcher Stephany LaRosa got the Bruins started in the first with a two-run homer to center that put Popescue on the ropes from the first half inning.
“I actually, believe it or not, didn’t think I pitched that bad,” Popescue said. “All I can do is make the pitches the best I can and if she makes contact with it, let alone a home run, more power to her.”
The Sun Devils responded in the second with a clutch hit from freshman designated hitter Chelsa Gonzales. With two outs and runners on first and third a solid ground ball up the middle sent the two Sun Devils around third to easily score and tie the early lead.
There was something that the Bruins liked about the way Popescue pitched because they added another two run and loaded the bases twice in the third inning.
By the fourth inning, both sides changed to their starters from Friday’s game, which was an immediate payoff for both as Escobedo and Carda set down three straight in their first appearances.
Escobedo would go on to throw four perfect innings before giving up to Carda and eventually losing the lead the Sun Devils gained in the fifth. With the games tied, all eyes look to Saturday’s afternoon matchup to see who will take the series.
The only question is: who will pitch for the Sun Devils? Escobedo has thrown 13 innings this weekend and the Bruins are getting used to seeing her pitches. As for Popescue, this is her second time being batted around in her last two appearances.
They weren’t terrible starts considering that they were against the two best teams in the country, but she still hasn’t had the same command as the Sun Devils are used to seeing.
Nicholson said he’s not sure who will start Saturday, but come 3:30 p.m. at Farrington Stadium, all questions will be answered.
Reach the reporter at Nkwit@asu.edu or follow him on twitter @NolanKwit