ASU softball sweeps on final day of Kajikawa Classic

TEMPE, Ariz. — The No. 7 Arizona State softball team finished its opening weekend of play with victories over Fresno State and UC Riverside on Sunday to wrap up the annual Kajikawa Classic.

The Sun Devils went 6-0 in the tournament, outscoring opponents 48-3 and allowing just a single earned run. ASU finished the weekend batting .430 as a team with 64 hits, seven home runs — two of which were grand slams — and 44 RBIs.  Every Sun Devil who received at least two at-bats had at least one hit on the weekend.

The pitching was exceptional as well, as Dallas Escobedo and Mackenzie Popescue combined for a 6-0 record (three wins each) with a combined 0.20 ERA while allowing just one earned run and an opponent batting average of .151.

ASU 11, UC RIVERSIDE 1 (5)

In their sixth game and final game of the Kajikawa Classic, the Sun Devils did just what they’d done to in the previous five, cruising to a run-rule win for the fourth time this season.  

The offense picked up right where they left off from the game earlier in the day, led by Haley Steele and her six RBI.

In the first inning, Steele drove in Cheyenne Coyle, Alix Johnson, Amber Freeman with her second career grand slam, and she followed that up in the second with a single into right that scored Johnson and Abby Spiel.    

In the third, Jennifer Soria scored from third on a passed ball. The Devils then added to their lead a heads-up play from Bailey Wigness on the base paths when she stole second base, advanced to third and then went home on a throwing error by UC Riverside catcher Natalie Sanchez. 

Moving to the fourth, the Sun Devils scored their ninth, 10th and 11th runs when pinch hitter Sierra Rodriguez got her first hit and RBI as a Sun Devil in her first career at-bat, driving in Allie Buterfield.  Wigness drove home Soria when she doubled down the left-field line before Sashel Palacios put the finishing touches on the victory by driving in Wigness.

Mackenzie Popescue gave up five hits and two walks but kept her season ERA at 0.00, as the only UC Riverside run of the day scored on a throwing error. 

Popescue improved to 3-0 on the season, with opponents going 0-16 with two outs and hitting just .143 with runners on base.

ASU 7, FRESNO STATE 0

In their first matchup on Sunday, the Sun Devils (5-0) shut out the Fresno State Bulldogs (3-2).

The victory came with Dallas Escobedo’s signature on it, of course. The two-time All-American pitched her 29th career complete-game shutout, allowing only two hits while tallying 10 strikeouts. Defensively, the Sun Devils had a season-high two errors but made up for it with several impressive plays, one of which was an inning-ending diving catch of a pop fly by catcher Amber Freeman.    

The offense took form in the second inning when a walk drawn by Bethany Kemp got ASU going. Successive base runners Chelsea Gonzales, Nikki Girard, Bailey Wigness, and Cheyenne Coyle followed, with a Wigness chopper leading to a bad throw home by the Fresno State shortstop, scoring Kemp for the first run of the game.  

Coyle followed that with her ninth and 10th RBIs of the season on a double to left field to score Gonzales and Girard. Wigness would come home on a passed ball for the last run of the inning, giving ASU an early 4-0 lead.

The Sun Devils weren’t done, though, as they added two runs in the third. Hailey Steele scored on a sacrifice fly by Gonzalez and Elizabeth Caporuscio came home on a grounder by Girard. 

Coyle put the exclamation point on the game for ASU in the sixth with a solo home run to left, her third of the season.

Escobedo improved to 3-0 on the year with an exceptional 0.37 era. She is holding opponents to an .079 batting average on just five hits to go along with 32 strikeouts.