ASU softball improves to program-best 21-0

TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona State softball team set a program record for best start to a season Saturday, improving to 21-0 with wins over East Carolina by a score of 13-0 and North Carolina by a score of 7-4 at the Wilson/DeMarini Invitational.

Mackenzie Popescue and Jenna Makis combined on the shutout in the five-inning mercy-rule win over East Carolina (7-11), with Alix Johnson tallying two homers and four hits in the win. Sam Parlich nearly hit for the cycle against the Tar Heels, finishing 3-for-3 at the dish, while Dallas Escobedo earned the win in the circle to improve to 11-0

GAME 1: ASU 13, ECU 0 (5)

Alix Johnson got ASU’s offense started early with a long ball to dead center just five pitches into the game. Nikki Girard’s double down the right-field line later in the inning allowed Cheyenne Coyle and Amber Freeman to cross home, giving ASU a 3-0 lead. Mary Spiel then got her wheels churning for an infield single that plated Girard to make it 4-0.
 
The second inning started similarly to the first, with Coyle hitting her eighth homer of the year to after Johnson had reached on her second hit, a single through the right side, to make it 6-0. At that point, East Carolina called on to Sarah Christian to relieve starter Courtney Smith in the circle.
 
The Devils tacked on a run in the third, making it 7-0, on an RBI single by Johnson to bring in Spiel. Johnson added another home run to start the fifth to make it 10-0. Johnson went for a team-best 4-for-4 at the plate and had five RBIs.
 
ASU went on to score five runs in the sixth and make it 13-0 before finishing off the mercy-rule win in the bottom of the inning.
 
Mackenzie Popescue picked up her ninth win of the year and combined with Jenna Makis for the shutout. The Pirates went through four pitchers, but Smith took the loss, dropping to 0-4.

GAME 2: ASU 7, UNC 4

Dallas Escobedo was lights-out early, striking out the first four batters of the game, three of them looking. North Carolina struck first, though, on Kristen Brown’s home run to center that gave the Tar Heels a 2-0 lead in the second inning.
 
ASU rallied with four runs in the bottom of the third. Freeman put ASU on the board with solo home run, closing the gap to 2-1. The long ball was the seventh of the season for Freeman and the 19th of her career. Girard singled up the middle later in the inning to plate Haley Steele and was followed by Sam Parlich, who drove in two runs on a drive to the wall in right-center.
 
North Carolina answered with a second two-run homer, this one coming in the top of the fourth, to tie it back up at 4-4.
 
The score teeter-tottered once again in the fourth, with ASU going ahead 5-4 when Bailey Wigness scored unearned on a sacrifice fly by Johnson. Wigness led off the fourth with a single to center and then advanced to third on a North Carolina error.
 
Parlich added an insurance run in the sixth to make it 6-4 with a leadoff homer to left, her fourth of the year. ASU got one final run on a Steele single that plated Johnson to make it 7-4.

Escobedo earned the win, her 11th of the year, while UNC’s Lori Spingola took the loss to fall to 8-4.
 
ASU closes out the tournament Sunday against No. 22 Baylor in what will be the team’s first game against a ranked opponent this season.