ASU softball run-rules Dartmouth in NCAA tournament opener
MAY 17, 2014 1:34a ET
ASU, seeded ninth overall in the tournament, scored six runs in the fifth. Alix Johnson led off with her 10th double of the year and advanced to third on a fielder's choice. After an Amber Freeman walk, Haley Steele bounced one to third, and Johnson managed to escape a rundown and score. Elizabeth Caporuscio and Bethany Kemp added RBI singles before Chelsea Gonzales drove in a run on a groundout, and Nikki Girard finished off the big inning -- and the game -- with a two-run home run, her fourth of the year, to make it 8-0.
It was Girard's third walk-off at-bat of the year, the others coming on a fielder's choice against Longwood earlier this season and a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch in a dramatic nine-inning victory over Stanford.
The walk-off victory was the 10th of the season for the Sun Devils. It also was their 19th run-rule victory of the season, the third-most in program history.
Gonzales hit her sixth home run of the year in the bottom of the second inning to give ASU a 2-0 lead.
"Obviously, we got off to a little bit of a slow start in today's game, but (starter Dallas Escobedo) did a great job of keeping them off the board early," ASU coach Craig Nicholson said. "I felt like our second time through the lineup we started making some adjustments, and third time we really did a great job of squaring some balls up."
Escobedo (23-7) tossed a one-hitter with eight strikeouts and improved to 16-2 in Tempe in her postseason career, tallying seven shutouts and 110 strikeouts in those games. Escobedo has not given up an earned run in the last 39 innings of regional action dating back to the 2012 postseason. Her one-hitter on Friday was her seventh of the season. It also was her 12th complete-game shutout.
"It's kind of a mentality thing, and I could feel it within the first 5-10 minutes of my bullpen," Escobedo said. "Being able to just say, 'You know, I've been here a million times,' and I just wanted to do it and go at them."
This was the first NCAA tournament game ever for Dartmouth (31-18) and just the second meeting between ASU and an Ivy League team. Dartmouth posted an 18-2 league record this season en route to its first conference crown.
ASU will play Michigan on Saturday for the second time this season. Last season, Michigan eliminated ASU from the Women's College World Series, but earlier this year, the Sun Devils beat the Wolverines 2-0 at the Judi Garman Classic. ASU and Michigan have met in each of the last four seasons, with the Wolverines holding a 3-2 advantage in that time. Michigan is 43-12 and ranked 13th in both the coaches' and ESPN polls. ASU is ranked fourth.