TEMPE – Craig Nicholson insisted that he was just happy his Arizona State University softball team picked up another victory and is ready to move on to the next game. That didn’t stop him from getting a whipped cream pie to face in his postgame interview with the Pac-12 Networks after earning his 1,000th career victory as a head coach following his No. 7/6 Sun Devils’ 5-1 win over Utah on Thursday in Tempe.
The Sun Devils (36-6, 10-3 Pac-12) jumped out to an early 4-0 lead in the first inning and never looked back in front of 1,134 fans that included Nicholson’s wife, family, friends and colleagues at Farrington Stadium.
“The big thing about tonight is we got another win,” Nicholson said after the game. “Milestones are something you pass along the way. It’s really about preparing this team for the rest of the year and where we want to get this season.”
But on a night that saw his family in attendance and hearing the voices of old colleagues and student-athletes sending along their congratulations via several voice messages, Nicholson admitted that there was still something special about the evening.
“I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of great players over the years and when you have a lot of great players, you can win a lot of ball games,” he said. “(I was emotional) after hearing from some former players and I wasn’t expecting that for sure. Obviously, they were all kids that meant a lot to me after spending four to five years with them”
Dallas Escobedo was exceptional yet again, pitching six innings of scoreless ball before her streak of 16 consecutive innings without a run ended off the bat of Utah’s Marissa Mendenhall, who hit a solo home run with two outs in the seventh inning to eliminate the shut out.
The senior ace was exceptional despite the late blemish, picking up her 17th victory of the season while giving up just three hits and no walks while striking out eight Ute batters.
Thursday’s victory over Utah (16-17, 3-9 Pac-12) was ASU’s ninth in the last 10 games after dropping two of three to Oregon State in the Pac-12 opening series just over a month ago.
Alix Johnson reached on an infield single in the first inning, scoring from first on an Amber Freeman double two batters later for an early 1-0.
The Sun Devils continued their trend of two-out rallies in the inning as Caporuscio brought home Freeman on a single to center. Bethany Kemp doubled to left center on the next at-bat and Chelsea Gonzales brought them both home with a single down the left field line to give ASU a 4-0 lead.
For Gonzales, it brought her team-leading total to 16 RBI in Pac-12 action with 11 of those coming with two outs on the board.
ASU would tack on one more run in the third as Caporuscio scored on a bases loaded fielder’s choice by Nikki Girard.
Kayce Nieto took the loss for the Utes to drop to 8-11 on the season after giving up five runs on seven hits with a walk and a strikeout. Mariah Ramirez was solid in three innings of relief, allowing just one hit with two walks ad a strikeout to stymy the Sun Devil bats.
Nicholson improved to 1000-258 in a head coaching career that saw him go 723-90 at Central Arizona, 241-62 at Ball State and now 36-6 at Arizona State.