ASU softball rallies to finish off sweep of Utah

TEMPE, Ariz. — The seventh-ranked Arizona State softball team rallied in the bottom of sixth inning with five runs to erase a two-run deficit and defeat Utah 7-4 on Saturday, completing a three-game sweep at Farrington Stadium.

Senior Dallas Escobedo, pitching on her 22nd birthday, earned her 18th victory of the season. She struck out two and gave up three earned runs in seven innings pitched.

Escobedo’s unearned run came in the third inning after an illegal pitch that led to a walk, an outfield error and a sacrifice fly that tied the score at 1.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, Alix Johnson hit an RBI single to left field, scoring Abby Spiel and giving the Sun Devils a 2-1 lead.

ASU (37-6, 12-3 Pac-12) would miss out on a huge scoring opportunity later in the frame, leaving the bases loaded on an inning-ending double play.

After a scoreless fifth inning, the Utes (16-19, 3-11 Pac-12) went ahead with a three-run home run by Marissa Mendenhall in the top of the sixth, giving them a 4-2 lead. Mendenhall also hit a home run off of Escobedo in the first game of the series.

However, the Sun Devils responded in the bottom half of the inning. Cheyenne Coyle hit a sacrifice fly to right-center with the bases loaded, scoring Sierra Rodriguez and advancing Bailey Wigness to third. Junior catcher Amber Freeman then lined a RBI single to left field, scoring Wigness and tying the score at 4. With runners on first and second, Haley Steele hit a two-run double to right center, giving the Sun Devils a 6-4 lead. The two RBI gave Steele the team lead with 41.

Freshman Chelsea Gonzales drove in another run with a fly-ball single to center field that got lost in the sun and dropped harmlessly.

Escobedo retired Utah in order in the top of the seventh to seal the win. It was ASU’s fourth victory in the last five opportunities after trailing following the fifth, sixth or top of the seventh inning this season. The Sun Devils had gone 0-5 in such games to start the season prior to their recent streak.

After the game, Freeman and Steele talked about the team’s patience at the plate when the game is on the line.

"We never freak out," Freeman said. "We don’t press."

Added Steele: "I honestly love the pressure. I didn’t even know I lead the team in RBI. It just so happens that I hit fourth and my teammates get on base for me."

On a weekend when he earned his 1,000th victory as a head coach, ASU’s Craig Nicholson said Utah was a scrappy team that played hard in all three games.

"I don’t know that we played great, but I thought we competed well." Nicholson said. "Finally our offense got going there in the sixth inning, thankfully."