No. 5 ASU softball wins twice to stay unbeaten
TEMPE, Ariz. — The fifth-ranked Arizona State softball team rallied to beat Illinois State 4-2 on Saturday before capping the doubleheader with a 7-4 victory over San Jose State on the final day of the Littlewood Classic.
With the twin-bill sweep, the Sun Devils finished the tournament with a perfect 4-0 record along with the non-tournament victory over Tennessee State on Thursday to compile a 5-0 record over three days. ASU is now 11-0 overall.
Bethany Kemp was the star of the weekend on offense, finishing the five games with five hits, five runs and four home runs for a 1.417 slugging percentage while accounting for 17 total bases.
In two appearances, pitcher Dallas Escobedo allowed just two hits and two runs while striking out 23 batters in two complete games. Escobedo thwarted defending NCAA champion and 11th-ranked Oklahoma in a one-hit performance that saw ASU post a 7-0 victory.
ASU 7, SAN JOSE STATE 4
In their second game of the doubleheader and their last of the Littlewood Classic, the Sun Devils held off the Spartans’ comeback bid to stay perfect on the season.
It did not take long for the ASU offense to put a run on the board, as shortstop Cheyenne Coyle advanced and scored from third on a throwing error in the first inning. The Spartans second baseman attempted to catch Alix Johnson in a pickle after the Johnson got stuck between bases on a steal attempt, but she tossed the ball into the dugout, allowing Coyle to score and put ASU up 1-0.
In the second, first baseman Bethany Kemp took a full-count pitch deep to left for a home run, putting the Sun Devils up 2-0, and it wouldn’t be the last time the Spartans would hear from Kemp.
ASU put four more on the board in the third, two coming from a bases-loaded throwing error on a play that would have ended the inning, scoring both DH Amber Freeman and third baseman Haley Steele. In the following at-bat, second baseman Nikki Girard singled to right field to score outfielder Elizabeth Caporuscio and Kemp, giving the Sun Devils a 6-0 lead.
In her third at-bat of the contest, Kemp belted her second solo homer of the afternoon, extending the advantage to 7-0.
Starting pitcher Mackenzie Popescue did the rest, throwing a complete game. The senior gave up nine hits but allowed only one earned run, battling through the sixth and seventh innings as the Spartans threatened by putting a combined four runs on the board. Popescue held on, though, picking up her team-leading sixth victory of the season.
ASU 4, ILLINOIS STATE 2
In their first game of the doubleheader, the Sun Devils downed the Red Birds behind another strong effort from starter Dallas Escobedo.
Escobedo went seven innings and allowed only two hits, with one of those being a two-run homer by Illinois State third baseman Sara Bradley that accounted for the only two runs allowed by Escobedo on the day. The ASU ace struck out 11 while walking just one.
Escobedo improved to 5-0 on the season with the victory; she has given up just three runs on the season.
The ASU offense was not without its struggles in this one, as the Sun Devils were were without a base runner until the fourth inning, when catcher Amber Freeman chopped a double into left field. She ended up stranded, though, and ASU found itself down 2-0 after four and a half innings.
The rally came in the fifth inning, however, as with two on, second baseman Nikki Girard launched a double into right field, scoring both Caporuscio from third and DH Chelsea Gonzalez from second.
The Sun Devils followed the big hit with two successive base runners to load the bases. That brought up Johnson, who doubled to the left-field wall tos score outfielder Bailey Wigness and pinch runner Allie Butterfield, giving the Sun Devils a 4-2 lead that they would not relinquish.