No. 4 ASU softball opens against New Mexico

Arizona State softball will open the 2013 season on Thursday at 7 p.m. against a New Mexico team coached by Sun Devil Hall of Famer Erica Beach.

Beach was an All-American, an Academic All-American and a member of the Women’s College World Series all-tournament team during her ASU career, helping the Sun Devils to four NCAA tournament appearances and two Women’s College World Series appearances. She graduated with a degree in broadcasting in 2003 and was inducted into the ASU Sports Hall of Fame in 2012. She pitched professionally in Europe and in the United States.

The Sun Devils are No. 4 in the preseason national rankings, coming off a 53-11 season. Junior outfielder Alix Johnson, junior pitcher Dallas Escobedo and sophomore catcher Amber Freeman are all members of USA Softball’s Top 50 Watch List for the 2013 season. Escobedo was 24-8 with a 2.32 ERA last year, Johnson hit .395 with 13 home runs, and Freeman was named to the Women’s College World Series all-turnament team.

The Sun Devils’ key losses from last year’s team are All-America shortstop Katelyn Boyd, Annie Lockwood, Hillary Bach and Talor Haro. They return six starters and two pitchers.

Thursday’s game is the first of seven this week for ASU in the annual Kajikawa Classic. The Sun devils will play Cal State Northridge (4:30 p.m.) and Indiana (7 p.m.) on Friday, Kentucky (4:30 p.m.) and Western Michigan (7 p.m.) on Saturday, and Bradley (11 a.m.) and Boise State (1:30 pm..) on Sunday.