ASU softball tops Michigan to advance to regional final

Dallas Escobedo delivers a pitch during ASU's 4-1 win over Michigan in the NCAA tournament's Tempe Regional.

TEMPE, Ariz. — Chelsea Gonzales’ three-run home run in the bottom of the fourth inning capped a four-run rally for the Arizona State softball team in a 4-1 win over Michigan on Saturday in the NCAA tournament’s Tempe Regional.

With the win, the Sun Devils (46-10-1) advance to Sunday’s regional championship game at 2:30 p.m. at Farrington Stadium. ASU will face either Michigan or San Diego State. The Sun Devils need to win only one game to advance to next week’s NCAA Super Regional, while the winner of Saturday night’s elimination game will have to beat them twice.

"Our approach today was to work to stay inside the ball," ASU coach Craig Nicholson said. "We made some adjustments in the middle of the game, and most of our righties got off the plate a little bit.

"We may have been a little overaggressive early on, but I think that we did a better job the second time through the order making sure that even though we made an adjustment, we still got a pitch to go with the adjustment."

ASU fell behind early after Michigan (43-13) reeled off three straight hits to start the game. Sierra Romero’s single to left scored teammate Lyndsay Doyle from third to produce the Wolverines’ only run of the game.

Despite having runners at first and second with no outs, Michigan was not able to push anymore runs across the plate, as ASU pitcher Dallas Escobedo struck out two of the next three batters and got another to pop out to end the threat.

Through three innings, ASU got only two hits and was not able to advance a runner past second base. But the Sun Devils’ first two batters of the fourth inning reached, as Cheyenne Coyle was hit by a pitch and Amber Freeman followed with a single. Later in the inning, a fielding error by the Wolverines on a ball hit by Elizabeth Caporuscio enabled Coyle to come home and tie the score at 1-1.

The game’s decisive moment would come later in the inning when Gonzales came up with two outs and runners at first and second base. After hitting a two-run shot in ASU’s 8-0 win over Dartmouth on Friday, Gonzales would come through again Saturday, sending the second offering from Michigan pitcher Haylie Wagner over the center-field fence to give ASU a 4-1 lead.

After giving up three hits in the first inning, Esobedo allowed only a walk and a single the rest of the way to put away the win. The senior struck out seven batters to improve to 24-7 on the year.