OKLAHOMA CITY – Dallas Escobedo doesn’t have to be perfect. Far from it actually with the way the Sun Devils play defense and how explosive the offense can be on any night.
Escobedo may have given Florida a glimpse of hope for Tuesday as her dominant form fell off in the final two frames, but the fact remains she helped Arizona State to a 14-4 victory and 1-0 lead in the best-of-three championship series at the Women’s College World Series.
While the offense was piling on the runs, Escobedo mowed through the potent Gator lineup—early on anyway. Florida scored its four runs in the final two innings, including stroking three home runs. Escobedo has allowed 22 home runs this season, not a statistic she’d be pleased with in any season let alone as a rookie.
With an ERA above 2.00 in WCWS play, it’s been key that the freshman believe in her teammates behind her. Batterymate Kaylyn Castillo has not hesitated to remind the young pitcher that they have her back.
“Defensively, I think we just kind of reminded Dallas that she does have a good defense and it’s ok to let them hit the ball every now and then [to] keep the pressure off her,” Castillo said. “I think our defense is really stellar right now, we communicate well and just want to keep to that plan.”
The plan is designed to ease the load carried by the fabulous freshman, helping her understand her role and that she doesn’t have to do it alone. Little by little this season, she’s started to appreciate the defense’s value.
“It makes my job a whole lot easier,” Escobedo said. “I think I did great [innings] one through five, but I just have to hold it out six and seven.”
With another performance like the championship series opener, Arizona State will be winning its second title in four years on Tuesday. In that scenario, Escobedo will likely to be the first freshman pitcher to win the clinching title game—series or single championship contest—since Heather Compton for UCLA in 1990.
Escobedo had the benefit of an early lead as she cruised to her 36th win this season, easily an ASU freshman record. The Sun Devils’ 3, 4 and 5 hitters each posted at least two hits and three RBIs, helping Arizona State score the second-most runs in a championship series game.
“We knew Florida had a great offense and we wanted to come out and prove a point that we have a great offense,” senior third baseman Krista Donnenwirth said. “I think that every single player was locked in at the plate. We never took one strike or one ball for granted; everybody was locked in and I think it showed on the scoreboard.”
ASU executed to near perfection by doing one simple thing: following the plan laid out by the coaching staff.
“I think we stayed with our plan pitching-wise, I think we stayed with our plan defensive-wise and offense-wise,” said ASU coach Clint Myers. “We know what we have to do. We’ve said it from Day 1, we said it at every news conference: we’re not concerned about the other team. We know they are a very good team. And so are we. So if we take care of the things we are supposed to do—the hitting, timely hitting, good defense, great pitching—then I like our chances.”
Knowing they don’t have to be perfect to do it makes it that much easier.
History in the making
With at least one game left, it’s hard to determine which freshman might be the first in nearly three decades to win a national championship as a starting pitcher. One historic note already in the books came Monday as two freshmen started in the circle against each other in a championship game for the first time in WCWS history. On the Arizona State side, freshman stud Dallas Escobedo earned the win as she pitched 7.0 innings, allowing five hits and four runs while striking out seven. Florida All-American Hannah Rogers also started but wasn’t as successful, lasting just 2.1 innings while allowing 10 runs—nine earned—on nine hits with four walks.
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What’s in a number?
Freshman Dallas Escobedo continued her climb toward the top of the Arizona State charts. The phenom recorded her 36th win of the season with the 14-4 victory against Florida. She now stands alone in second place on the Sun Devils’ all-time wins chart, trailing only the 41 wins by Katie Burkhart set in ASU’s championship season of 2008.
How did Florida react to its record-setting day with two wins by a combined 25-4 score against rival Alabama on Sunday? Among the numerous records set in Monday’s contest were:
• Arizona State tied the single-game mark—also matched Sunday by the Gators—with four home runs.
• The Sun Devils tied the mark for most combined home runs in a WCWS game with Florida’s help, as the Gators also smacked three round-trippers, including two in the seventh inning, making it seven total in the game.
• ASU posted the third-highest total for runs scored in WCWS history, matching Florida’s 14 runs against the Crimson Tide on Sunday. The total is also the second-most in a championship series or game, topping the 11 runs Arizona State scored in an 11-0 shutout to clinch the 2008 title against Texas A&M but trailing the 15 runs UCLA scored last year.
• ASU senior Krista Donnenwirth’s two home runs tied the single-game mark as did her eight total bases.
• Florida’s Michelle Moultrie tied the series record, prevoiusly accomplished twice before, with her fourth home run, a two-run shot in the seventh inning. Moultrie had just two home runs in the preivous 62 games before coming to Oklahoma City.
How good is she?
There have been a number of outstanding defensive plays in Oklahoma City this week, but third baseman Krista Donnenwirth had possibly the top highlight when she ended the Gators’ fourth inning. Moving to her left, she snagged a line shot off the bat of Aja Paculba, Donnenwirth’s second snow-cone catch of the night following a first-inning foul pop fly. Donnenwirth then riffled to first to double off Cheyenne Coyle who couldn’t get back to the bag in time after expecting the ball to get to the outfield.
It was similar to a play Donnenwirth made during the Sun Devils’ first game of the WCWS against Oklahoma, prompting coach Clint Myers to say then: “I’ve been coaching 35 years, both men and women, and Krista Donnenwirth is the best third baseman I’ve ever coached. She does more things with what she has with her angles of release – she’s just an outstanding third baseman.”
And she can swing the bat
Krista Donnenwirth was just 1 for 8 at the plate entering the championship series, but made up for it in a big way Monday. With a three-run homer in the second inning to ignite the Sun Devil offense, Donnenwirth showed some power and added to it by tying the WCWS single-game record with a second home run, a solo shot in the fifth. She had eight total bases, another game WCWS record, and finished 2 of 3 at the plate.
How clutch was that?
With two outs and holding just a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning, Lesley Rogers battled through an 11-pitch at bat to end up with a walk, loading the bases in the process. What followed next? Three consecutive hits concluding with Krista Donnenwirth’s three-run bomb to blow open the game and cap a six-run inning.
Honoring the cause
The NCAA and National Fastpitch Coaches Association collaborated on a “StrikeOut Cancer Night” during the first game of the championship series Monday. Cancer survivors and those currently battling the disease were honored during the game and $1 of every ticket sold to the game was donated to the American Cancer Society. The ceremonial first pitch was also thrown out by Texas Woman’s University softball player Abby Burns, who is battling leukemia. Olympian Laura Berg, the only four-time softball Olympian, caught Burns’ pitch.