TEMPE – Seventh-ranked Arizona State returned to action for the 2014 season with back-to-back victories to open up the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz., on Thursday night.
Dallas Escobedo and Mackenzie Popescue each pitched complete-game shutouts on the evening as the Sun Devils knocked off Creighton, 3-0, and New Mexico, 9-0 (5).
Arizona State 9, New Mexico 0 (5)
Arizona State closed out its season-opening doubleheader with a 9-0 victory against New Mexico (0-1) on Thursday night.
The Sun Devils took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second as catcher Katee Aguirre singled home a run.
New Mexico looked to get on the board in the top of the third with the bases loaded and only one out, but Sun Devil pitcher Mackenzie Popescue kept the Lobos at bay, striking out Jasmine Casados and throwing Michala Erickson out at first after making a nice snag on a liner right down broadway.
ASU extended its lead with back-to-back homers by senior shortstop Cheyenne Coyle in the third and fourth innings. The first homer came minutes after a beautiful play at shortstop where Coyle backhanded a ball that had reached the grass in left field and launched a missile off her back foot to put the runner out at first.
Coyle’s second homer was the icing on the cake as it was a grand slam to center field, giving the Sun Devils a commanding 6-0 lead over the Lobos. It was Coyle’s fourth career home run and her third as a Sun Devil. Coyle tied the single season mark for home runs last season with 20.
“I was really mad at myself after the first at bat,” said Coyle, who flied out to center field in the first. “I like being disciplined. I don’t like chasing a lot of pitches—whenever I do that, I kind of have to walk away and refocus everything because I want the pitcher to bring me my pitch. Eventually, she did.”
The Sun Devils put three more on the board in the bottom of the fourth. Designated hitter Amber Freeman homered to right center, Nikki Girard was walked with bases loaded, and Aguirre singled to left bringing Elizabeth Caporuscio home.
The game ended in a 9-0 shutout after the top of the fifth due to the run rule.
ASU takes the field against North Carolina State at 7:30 p.m. at Farrington Stadium on Friday. The game will be streamed live online via the Pac-12 Networks.
Arizona State 3, Creighton 0
The Sun Devils (1-0) began their 2014 campaign under first-year head coach Craig Nicholson with a 3-0 win against the Creighton Blue Jays (0-2) in their first game of the 2014 Kajikawa Classic.
The Sun Devil victory came off an excellent performance from the two-time All-American Dallas Escobedo. Escobedo, who was recently named to the USA Softball Preseason Watch List for Player of the Year, pitched seven-inning shut-out work, throwing 14 strikeouts and not allowing a hit until the top of the seventh inning during Creighton’s last at bat.
It was the second-most strikeout in Escobedo’s career in a regular season game and was the 93rd victory of the Sun Devils career as she looks to overcome Katie Burkhart for the school record in career victories.
Escobedo was aided with the help of excellent defensive play including a leaping catch save a home run by CF Alix Johnson against the center-field fence early in the game, and a top half ending double-play in the fourth.
While the bats struggled against MVC All-Conference pitcher Becca Changstrom (0-1), the Sun Devils got the only cushion they needed from an unlike source as freshman designated hitter singled up the middle in her first collegiate at bat to plate Elizabeth Caporuscio and Bethany Kemp and provide a two run lead early in the game. The Devils’ only other run came from a bases-loaded walk by Johnson.
With the victory, the Sun Devils improved to 38-7 on opening day since 1971 and have not lost a season-opening game since 1995.