Arizona State holds off Oregon
Escobedo pitches complete game to lead Sun Devils to win
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Defending NCAA Champion Arizona State posted its sixth consecutive victory in Oklahoma City to close out the opening day at the WCWS, defeating Pac-12 rival Oregon by a score of 3-1.
ASU (52-9) advances in the winners bracket to face Alabama on Friday, while Oregon (44-17) falls to the losers bracket and will play Tennessee on Saturday.
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A first-inning walk issued to ASU’s Alix Johnson led to the first run of the ball game. Johnson would be erased on a fielders choice by Haley Steele, but Steele would score from first on a double to right off the bat of catcher Amber Freeman to give the Sun Devils the early lead.
Arizona State added two unearned runs in the bottom of the third inning as Talor Haro led off the inning with a single and shortstop Katelyn Boyd drew a walk. Johnson put down a sacrifice bunt to put both runners in scoring position.
The second out came on a ground ball and the inning appeared to be over on a grounder to shortstop by Amber Freeman, but the ball was mishandled and both runners were able to score on the play to extend ASU’s lead to 3-0 after three innings of play.
That seemed to be all the offense the Sun Devils would need, but the Ducks made things interesting in the top of the seventh.
Oregon first baseman Christie Nieto led off the top of the seventh inning with a double off the left-field wall. A walk to catcher Alexa Peterson set up pinch hitter Jamie Rae Sullivan cracked a ground ball up the arm of the second baseman to score Neito and advance Peterson to third base with no outs.
A screaming liner hit by designated player Sara Goodrum landed in the glove of ASU third baseman Steele, who doubled off Peterson for the first two outs of the inning. Sophomore pitcher Dallas Escobedo would close out the inning and seal the win for the Sun Devils with her fifth strikeout of the game.
“It was a hell of a play by Haley Steele,” said ASU head coach Clint Myers. “I mean, it really was. She’s a freshman, and she’s going to be a great player before she runs out of eligibility at Arizona State.”
Escobedo finished the win having surrendered one unearned run on five scattered hits to go along with those five strikeouts. The only RBI of the contest went to Freeman, who finished 1-for-2 in the game with a double.
• Two sessions, two attendance records. Session Two recorded an attendance of 8,235 fans, breaking last year’s record for this session (8,152). Both sessions on Thursday topped 8,000 fans.
• All four of the top seeded teams won on Thursday. Friday’s winners brackets games will feature No. 1 Cal vs. No. 4 Oklahoma, and No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Arizona State. Because all four of those teams were the home team on Thursday, Friday’s home teams will be determined by coin flip.
• Thursday’s win is the sixth consecutive WCWS victory for the Sun Devils. ASU won all five of its games in Oklahoma City last season en route to the program’s second NCAA championship.