By Kasey Kaler
After putting up prolific offensive numbers in their first three fall games, the Sun Devil offense encountered some struggles in back-to-back games versus Central Arizona College and Scottsdale Community College, beating the Artichokes 10-4.
The Sun Devils also welcomed back former assistant coach Robert Wagner on Wednesday, who serves as the head coach for the Fighting Artichokes.
Jenna Makis started in the circle and after allowing a two-run home run to the second batter faced, Makis calmed down and rolled up 14 ground balls in the next five innings. Makis was followed by Escobedo who tossed two innings and struck out another 5 batters staying hot during the fall season. Mackenzie Popescue finished the game’s last two innings.
The Sun Devil offense was aided by Bailey Wigness who was responsible for the first four runs scored; Wigness scored in the 3rd after an Alix Johnson double and then brought in three more runs, including herself on two Artichoke errors. With runners on first and third, Wigness chopped one to the shortstop who threw the ball into right field, the right fielder failed to stop the ball, which allowed both runners and Wigness to score.
While the third inning remained the biggest inning in terms of offense for the Sun Devils, three more runs were pushed across in the 6th, when Bethany Kemp lead off the inning with a double and then came in to score on a hit from Elizabeth Caporuscio, two batters later, Sashel Palacios hit a solo homer to right-center.
While offense was the story for most of the fall season, the Sun Devils showed off their prolific pitching duo of Dallas Escobedo and Mackenzie Popescue in a doubleheader versus the Phoenix College Bears on Saturday night.
Dallas Escobedo started the first game, pitching six scoreless innings and striking out 13 batters, four of them looking on the night. For the fall season, Escobedo pitched 22 innings this fall, allowing just three runs and striking out 51 batters. Jenna Makis tossed the final inning garnering three groundball outs.
The game started off in the Devils’ favor as leadoff Cheyenne Coyle reached on an error to the shortstop. Coyle came around to score on a double by Haley Steele later in the inning. Steele’s double was followed up by a two-run single by Bethany Kemp to give the Devils an early lead.
Later, in the 4th inning, Chelsea Gonzales had a bases-clearing double scoring Steele, Nikki Girard and Elizabeth Caporuscio. After a pain-free next inning, the Gonzales drove in two more runs with a home run.
The Sun Devils would win the first game versus the Bears 15-0.
The second game of the double header featured the other half of the two-headed monster in the circle, Mackenzie Popescue.
Popescue tossed a shutout of Phoenix College while striking out eight batters on the night. Escobedo and Popescue combined to hold the Bears to just six total hits.
Alix Johnson shined bright on the final fall game, hitting a long solo home run and driving in half of the Sun Devil’s total runs, five.
Most of the offense on the night was provided in the 4th inning when leadoff Elizabeth Caporuscio was the first of four consecutive hits and a run before Johnson brought home two on a double. Johnson then scored on a sac fly from Amber Freeman.
The Sun Devils would go onto beat the Bears 10-0.
After the game, Popescue, one of six seniors, talked of big goals for the 2014 season: “I expect a national championship and nothing less … this season means everything to us and all of the hard work and dedication leads us to this very spot.”
The Sun Devils finished their fall season 8-0 and now turn their attention to the start of the 2014 season.
In June, after a rather heartbreaking loss to Michigan in the Women’s College World Series, Popescue told Arizona Republic reporter Tyler Killian: “I have no doubt in my mind that we will be back here [in Oklahoma City] next year. I feel bad for everyone else, because we’re gonna kill ‘em.”
The road to Oklahoma City will begin on Thursday, February 6th, 2014 at 4:30 p.m. versus Creighton University.