Nicholson reaches milestone in ASU softball’s win

TEMPE, Ariz. — Craig Nicholson insisted that he was just happy his Arizona State softball team picked up another victory. That didn’t stop him from getting a whipped cream pie to the face in his postgame interview after earning his 1,000th career victory as a head coach Thursday when the seventh-ranked Sun Devils defeated Utah 5-1.

ASU (36-6, 10-3 Pac-12) jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning and never looked back in front of 1,134 fans — including Nicholson’s wife, family and friends — at Farrington Stadium.

"The big thing about tonight is we got another win," Nicholson said. "Milestones are something you pass along the way. It’s really about preparing this team for the rest of the year and where we want to get this season."

But on a night when his family was in attendance and he received numerous congratulatory messages, Nicholson admitted that there was still something special about the achievement.

"I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of great players over the years, and when you have a lot of great players, you can win a lot of ballgames," he said. "(I was emotional) after hearing from some former players, and I wasn’t expecting that, for sure. Obviously, they were all kids that meant a lot to me after spending four to five years with them."

Dallas Escobedo was exceptional yet again for ASU, pitching six innings of scoreless ball before her streak of 16 straight shutout innings ended when Utah’s Marissa Mendenhall hit a solo home run with two outs in the seventh inning. Still, the senior ace picked up her 17th victory of the season, giving up just three hits and no walks while striking out eight.

Thursday’s victory over Utah (16-17, 3-9 Pac-12) was the Sun Devils’ ninth in the last 10 games after they lost two of three to Oregon State in the Pac-12-opening series just over a month ago.

Alix Johnson reached on an infield single in the first inning, scoring from first on an Amber Freeman double two batters later for an early 1-0 lead. The Devils continued their trend of two-out rallies in the inning, as Caporuscio brought home Freeman on a single to center. Bethany Kemp doubled to left-center in the next at-bat, and Chelsea Gonzales brought them both home with a single down the left-field line to make it 4-0.

Gonzales now has a team-leading 16 RBI in Pac-12 play, with 11 of those coming with two outs.

ASU would tack on one more run in the third when Caporuscio scored on a bases-loaded fielder’s choice by Nikki Girard. 

Kayce Nieto took the loss for the Utes to drop to 8-11 on the season. She allowed five runs on seven hits with a walk and a strikeout. Mariah Ramirez was solid in three innings of relief, allowing just one hit with two walks and a strikeout.

Nicholson improved to 1,000-258 in his head coaching career. He went 723-90 at Central Arizona and 241-62 at Ball State before taking the ASU job this past offseason.