ASU softball sweeps twin bill at Littlewood Classic

TEMPE, Ariz. — Facing its first ranked opponent of the season, the Arizona State softball team dominated 11th-ranked Oklahoma on Friday before taking care of business against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville in the nightcap to improve to 9-0 following a day of action at the Littlewood Classic in Tempe.

Dallas Escobedo (4-0) pitched a one-hit shutout against the Sooners, coming just one out shy of a no-hitter in a 7-0 win, while Mackenize Popescue was nearly as impressive against the Cougars in a 5-2 victory.

The Sun Devils conclude the 10th annual Littlewood Classic with another doubleheader on Saturday, facing Illinois State at 1:30 p.m. and San Jose State at 3:45 p.m.

ASU 7, OKLAHOMA 0

The Sun Devils had little trouble against the Sooners, thanks in large part to Escobedo, who came within one out of throwing a no-hitter before giving up an infield single in the top of the seventh inning. She struck out 12 in seven innings.

Haley Steele started things off for ASU offensively in the bottom of the second when she hit a solo home run to left field, giving the Sun Devils a 1-0 lead. It was Steele’s third consecutive game with a home run.

ASU extended its lead in the bottom of the fourth, when Elizabeth Caporuscio singled up the middle to score Steele and Alix Johnson. The single extended Caporuscio’s hitting streak to seven games.

Later in the inning, freshman Chelsea Gonzales hit her first home run of the season, a two-run bomb to left field, scoring Caporuscio and giving ASU a 5-0 lead.

Escobedo retired 14 batters in a row to begin the game before second baseman Nikki Girard dropped an infield blooper in the fifth inning, disrupting the senior’s perfect game up until that point. 

The Sun Devils scored two more runs in the bottom of the fifth inning after an Amber Freeman RBI single and a wild pitch that scored Allie Butterfield.

After a scoreless sixth inning, Escobedo headed to the mound with her no-hitter still intact. With two outs, Oklahoma’s Shelby Pendley hit a hard grounder to the hole at short. Shortstop Cheyenne Coyle backhanded the ball and threw it to first, but it was not in time, and Pendley reached first base safely for an infield single.

Escobedo struck out the next batter for the final out, giving the Sun Devils a 7-0 victory and stretching her record to 4-0 on the season.

ASU 5, SIUE 3

In the second game of the doubleheader, Popescue picked up where Escobedo left off to earn her fifth win of the season.

In seven innings of work, Popescue allowed her first two earned runs of the season but gave up only two hits and one walk. She also struck out seven Cougars on the night.

Popescue credited her success to her team and her ability to take one pitch at a time.

"I’ve got a great defense and a great offense. I’ve got the greatest team behind me, so as long as I take it one pitch a time, I know they have my back," the senior pitcher said.

The Sun Devils backed Popescue’s effort with five runs on six hits and seven walks.

In the bottom of the third inning, Johnson doubled in Coyle to get ASU on the board, and Amber Freeman then singled up the middle, scoring Johnson and giving the Devils a 3-0 lead.

Popescue allowed SIEU’s two runs in the top of the fourth inning, but junior Bethany Kemp answered back in the bottom half of the inning with a two-run home run with Freeman on base. It was Kemp’s third long ball of the season.

Kemp said, "She was jamming me all day, so I was kind of expecting a pitch inside. I just went in there looking for a good pitch to hit."

Kemp’s home run put the Sun Devils up 5-2, which ended up being the final margin after scoreless sixth and seventh innings.

Popescue is now 5-0 on the season, and ASU remains undefeated with a 9-0 record.