TEMPE – The No. 11/8 Arizona State University softball team fell to No. 8/9 University of Arizona by a score of 6-5 in a dramatic 10-inning tilt on Sunday night in front season high sellout crowd of 2,264 at Farrington Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.
Amber Freeman and Alix Johnson each had home runs while Dallas Escobedo added 14 strikeouts, but the effort for the Sun Devils (32-6, 6-3 Pac-12) was just short in a back-and-forth game that featured five lead changes and three ties over the course of three and a half hours of action.
“We didn’t play bad but we definitely gave away some opportunities to win that ball game,” head coach Craig Nicholson said after the game. “We were an out away from winning it in the seventh inning and definitely had an opportunity to score some more in the bottom of the sixth and we just didn’t capitalize.”
Both teams started game off slowly, unable to manufacture any runs behind the solid pitching of Escobedo and Arizona’s Estela Pinon. The Sun Devils broke the ice in the third inning when Freeman hit a solo home run to left with two outs on the board to give ASU an early 1-0 lead. It was Freeman’s second home run of the series.
The Wildcats (29-8, 4-5 Pac-12) answered In the fourth inning of the game, however, as Chelsea Goodacre tied up the score with a solo jack of her own for her second homer of the weekend as well.
Arizona struck next in the sixth inning as Kelsey Rodriguez reached on a leadoff hit and would eventually score on a two-out RBI single to right center by Mo Mercado to put the UA up 2-1.
The Devils had an answer in the bottom of the inning, though, as Cheyenne Coyle started ASU off with a base hit to the pitcher. Bethany Kemp followed with a double right down the left line advancing Coyle to third base to bring up Elizabeth Caporuscio, who picked a good time to log the first triple of the Sun Devil’s season out to right center, putting ASU ahead 3-2 heading into the seventh.
Escobedo started the seventh inning with two strikeouts but Hallie Wilson hit a single to left center and Rodriguez doubled to center field making a clear path for Wilson to come home to tie things at three heading into the bottom half of the inning.
The Sun Devils were able to load bases in the bottom of the seventh but could not get a runner home, a problem that plagued ASU all night as the squad left a season high 16 runners stranded in the game.
Following a Goodacre walk to lead off the eighth, Mercado launched a two run shot to dead center to put the Wildcats up, 5-3, but the Sun Devils weren’t going quietly into the night.
Sierra Rodriguez reached on a pinch-hit leadoff walk and two batters later, Alix Johnson sent an opposite field blast over the left field wall to tie things back up at five runs a piece.
After a scoreless ninth inning, Kellie Fox opened the 10th with a single to the left field and advanced to second base on a fielding error. Katiyana Mauga advanced Fox to third on a single to left and Mercado brought her home with a grounder to shortstop that the Sun Devils were unable to turn two on.
The Sun Devils had a chance to strike in the bottom of the inning as Johnson reached on a leadoff walk, Freeman advanced her on a walk and Coyle loaded the bases as she reached on an infield error with two outs. Bethany Kemp struck out to end the threat and the game, though, giving the Wildcats the win.
Escobedo finished the game with 183 pitches through nine innings, striking out 14 with four walks and five earned runs on eight hits as she fell to 14-5 on the season. Pinon picked up the victory, improving to 10-5 after pitching 203 pitches with seventh strikeouts and 11 walks, allowing five runs on eight hits.
Arizona State will take on California next weekend in Berkeley, Calif., in a three-game series beginning Friday, April 4 at 3 p.m. PT. All three games will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks.