ASU softball loses twice in doubleheader

TEMPE, Ariz. — The No. 3 Arizona State softball team dropped a pair of games Sunday, falling to No. 19 Minnesota 3-2 and Ball State 3-0. The Sun Devils dropped to 19-3 on the season with the two losses.

ASU’s pitching staff was exceptional for the majority of the day, pitching 12 scoreless innings in 14 innings pitched. Unfortunately for the Sun Devils, the runs scored in the other two innings proved to be all the offense the opposition would need, as the ASU offense struggled to get going throughout the day.

The Sun Devils will finish play at the Louisville Slugger Invitational on Monday when they take on Detroit at 7 p.m. in a make-up game following Saturday’s weather cancellations.

MINNESOTA 3, ASU 2

The Sun Devils allowed three runs in the top of the sixth inning and were unable to recover in a 3-2 loss to No. 19 Minnesota to open Sunday action.

ASU (19-2) held a 1-0 lead heading into the sixth behind the solid pitching of Dallas Escobedo, but the senior pitcher gave up four consecutive hits to open the inning, allowing Minnesota to put three runs on the board. 

It was the only inning the Golden Gophers (15-2) were able to score, but it was enough for Minnesota ace Sara Moulton. Moulton struck out eight, giving up four hits and two runs in the complete-game effort as she improved to 10-1 on the season.

ASU got on the board first in the bottom of the fourth after a pitchers duel saw 3 1/2 scoreless innings of play.  ASU opened the inning with consecutive singles from Amber Freeman and Haley Steele and loaded the bases on a walk by Cheyenne Coyle.  With two outs on the board, Elizabeth Caporuscio reached on an infield single to bring pinch running Abby Spiel home and give ASU the 1-0 lead.

After a scoreless fifth inning, Escobedo (8-2) gave up a leadoff hit to UM’s Tyler Walker that was followed by a well-placed bunt from Erica Meyer.  The Golden Gophers got on the board on the following batter as Kaitlyn Richard launched a long fly ball to left the Caporuscio was unable to get under, bringing Walker home.

On the very next batter, Sara Groenewegen drilled a single right down Broadway that brought home Meyer and Richardson to give Minnesota the decisive lead.

The Sun Devils looked to have a rally in them in the bottom of the sixth after Cheyenne Coyle reached and advanced to second on an infield error and Bethany Kemp followed that with a walk. Elizabeth Caporuscio scored her second RBI of the game with a double to right center to score Coyle that advanced Kemp to third.

With runners on second and third and no outs, a base-running gaffe put a dent in ASU’s chances after Kemp was put out on a 1-2-5 fielder’s choice after Kemp got caught between third and home.  Caporuscio came off the bag during the pickoff and was tagged out on her return to second for the double play.

Minnesota would log the next four outs of the game to put the Sun Devils away.  Escobedo finished the game with a complete game effort, fanning eight while allowing seven hits and three earned runs.

BALL STATE 3, ASU 0

While the Sun Devils didn’t struggle to get on base in Sunday’s nightcap, they were unable to bring home batters when they had their chances in a loss to Ball State.

ASU stranded 14 runners in Sunday’s contest, a new season high, and was unable to capitalize on any of the team’s six hits or season-high seven walks in the contest.

Senior pitcher Mackenzie Popescue (10-1) was exceptional for six innings, pitching a shutout and only allowing two hits in that span. But the Ball State bats came alive in the seventh inning, as the Cardinal plated the decisive three runs in the top of the seventh.

After getting a groundout to start the inning, Popescue gave up back-to-back hits to BSU’s Jessica Craft and Selena Reyna.  Popescue struck out Lauren Scroeder for the second out of the inning but walked leadoff batter Loren Cihlar to load the bases. Back-to-back RBI singles from Emily Dabkowski and Jennifer Gilbert brought home all three base runners to give the Cardinals all the cushion they would need.

The Sun Devils did not go quietly into the night, however. After the first two batters at the bottom of the seventh went out in succession, Cheyenne Coyle doubled to center field to set up a Bethany Kemp walk. Elizabeth Caporuscio then singled to left to load the bases but ASU was unable to capitalize, leaving the final score at 3-0.

Nicole Steinbach (4-2) was solid in the circle for Ball State, pitching a complete game while giving up six hits and seven walks.  Despite all the base runners, Steinbach was able to get out of binds time and time again and came out of the game with the all-important zero in the runs category.