Escobedo, ASU softball take down Arizona

TEMPE, Ariz. — Dallas Escobedo set a career high with 16 strikeouts in a regulation game, Amber Freeman hit a two-run home run and the No. 11/8 Arizona State softball team defeated visiting Arizona 2-1 on Friday night.

Escobedo started strong and never looked back as nine of her first ten outs came by way of strikeout and 16 of 21 total outs followed suit as she picked up her 14th victory of the season, improving to 14-4.

The 16 strikeouts were three less than Escobedo’s career mark of 19, which came in a 12-inning game against Portland State in 2013. She now has 1,077 career strikeouts and moves up to 61st on the Division I all-time strikeout list.

"She was really hitting her spots and the ball was really moving tonight," coach Craig Nicholson said of Escobedo’s performance. "I thought she had great stuff tonight, really commanded it, and Amber (Freeman) really did a good job calling the pitches for her."

There wasn’t much offense to go around for either team on the evening and only three Sun Devils (31-5, 5-2 Pac-12) managed a hit it the contest. But all it took was one swing of the bat by Freeman to defeat the Wildcats.

Bailey Wigness reached first on an infield single in the bottom of the third inning, and Freeman followed that up in a big way. Freeman smashed a two-run home run, her sixth of the season, with one out that gave the Sun Devils a 2-0 lead and all the offense it would need behind Escobedo’s gem of a gam.

Freeman finished the day 2-for-3 and now has a hit in eight straight games for the Sun Devils, easily the longest current streak on the squad.

The Wildcats (28-7, 3-4) were able to threaten Arizona State in the top of the fifth, loading the bases as Escobedo gave up two singles and a walk. But Escobedo was able to slam the door, striking out pinch hitter and starting pitcher Estela Pinon to end the inning with her third strikeout of the frame.

Arizona managed to close the gap in the top of the sixth inning as Chelsea Goodacre hit a solo bomb to center to bring Arizona back within 2-1. It was Goodacre’s 14th home run of the season, a mark that currently leads the NCAA, but would prove to be the final threat of the game for the opposition.

"Dallas really did a great job of giving our offense an opportunity to get things going," Nicholson said. "Both pitchers threw the ball outstanding tonight and the difference was when we hit the home run, there was someone on base and that’s what it came down to in this game."

UA’s Estela Pinon was solid on the day, giving up just four hits with three walks and five strikeouts. Outside of the two-run homer to Freeman, Pinon only allowed one base runner to get as far as second base in the entire game.  That being said, the Wildcat senior picked up the loss, her fifth of the season, dropping to 9-5 on the year.

The two teams resume the series Saturday and on Sunday, with both games at 7 p.m. All games this weekend are broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks.