OKLAHOMA CITY – For All-American senior Katelyn Boyd playing in big games is nothing new. Likewise for a pair of sophomores, Dallas Escobedo and Alix Johnson. Now, for a trio of freshmen, it is their turn.

Playing softball at Arizona State means big games every May and June. Boyd started as a freshman shortstop for the Sun Devils’ 2009 Women’s College World Series squad. Two springs later she hit .429 and was instrumental in ASU’s run to the national championship.

Also a big part of that run to NCAA gold was Escobedo, who was a spectacular 37-3 with a 1.51 earned run average in the circle. The rookie right-hander started 38 of the team’s 50 games in 2011. Johnson hit .350 as a freshman and got an immediate taste of what it was to play major college softball.

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“Last year was a dream come true for me,” said Johnson, who brought a .407 batting average to Oklahoma City. “Winning a national championship as a freshman, just coming to the College World Series, was amazing. It’s still pretty new for me. But I know last year I was extremely nervous when we got here.”

ASU head coach Clint Myers has no problem putting first-year players on the field. Amber Freeman brought a .338 average, 12 home runs, and 40 runs batted in to Oklahoma City. She has started at catcher in all but two games for the Sun Devils in 2012.

Outfielder Elizabeth Caporuscio has not missed a game, hitting 16 homers with 51 RBIs while hitting at a .328 clip. Haley Steele brought 11 long balls and 43 RBIs to the WCWS.

Steele, hitting in the three-hole, scored a run in Thursday’s 3-1 win against Oregon. Freeman, the clean-up hitter, knocked her in. In the seventh inning, Steele, a native of Poway, Calif., made a heads-up play at third base, catching a line drive and stepping on the bag for a double play with two runners aboard and ASU clinging to a two-run lead.

“Before the game, honestly, I was a little nervous,” said Freeman, a native of Lakewood, Calif. “But when I stepped into the box I just told myself it was just another softball game. I’ve been playing softball my whole life.

“So I just looked at it like that to keep myself relaxed, because this is a big deal. This has been my dream since I was a little girl.”

“[Steele] is going to be a great player before she runs out of eligibility at Arizona State,” said Myers, who has brought six teams to the WCWS since 2006, missing only 2010. “She’s hitting third, she’s playing a great third base, so we have to get things done and keep things going.”

It speaks volumes for the type of players they are. We haven’t missed a beat putting three freshmen out there. And when you are in the Pac-12 week in and week out you have to be ready to go.
-- ASU head coach Clint Myers

Before the tournament Myers spoke about the contributions of his freshmen.

“It speaks volumes for the type of players they are,” said the coach. “We haven’t missed a beat putting three freshmen out there. And when you are in the Pac-12 week in and week out you have to be ready to go.

“Getting to the [WCWS] in your first year, that is the experience you bring back, the experience you talk about leading a team back again.”

“If you ask coach there are no freshmen, sophomore, juniors or seniors on this team, just a group who have played 50 or 60 games together, battled together all season,” said Boyd. “Dallas [Escobedo], by the end of last year, wasn’t a freshman. After you go through a season in the Pac-12, by the time you get to this point, you’ve been through a ton of big games.”

The numbers speak for themselves. Entering the WCWS, the ASU freshman had 17 of the team’s 45 hits; scored 12 of the squad’s 33 runs; hit six of the Devils’ 11 home runs; and had 18 of the team’s 33 RBIs.

In Friday night’s 2-1 setback to Alabama, Steele had one of just three hits off Tide right-hander Jackie Traina.

For Arizona State the next “big game” is Saturday when they face LSU in an elimination contest. On Friday night a late Alabama rally sent the 2011 champions into the minefield of every-game-could-be-your last.

“Florida did it last year,” said Escobedo. “It’s not impossible to get [to the championship series]. But we aren’t looking past anything but [Saturday].”

In the Super Regional against Louisiana, the Sun Devils dropped the opener in the best-of-three but stormed back with wins of 9-2 and 8-0. The freshmen trio of Steele, Freeman and Caporuscio knocked in eight of the runs.

Through two games in Oklahoma City, ASU’s potent offense has totaled only six hits. If they get through LSU, Devil bats will have to find a way to solve Oklahoma’s left-handed Keilani Ricketts, who has not given up an earned run in 40 innings.