TEMPE -- The No. 11/8 Arizona State University softball team returns home this weekend to continue Pac-12 action as it takes on No. 24/23 Stanford at Farrington Stadium for a three-day, three-game series beginning on Saturday, March 22 in Tempe, Ariz. The series will get underway at 7 p.m. PT/MT on Saturday with the game being live-streamed via the Pac-12.com. Sunday’s game will be played at 7 p.m. as well and will mark the first time this season that the team will play on the Pac-12 Networks with Monday’s game also set for a Pac-12 Networks broadcast and a 4 p.m. first pitch.
#10Things (Twitter-Friendly Notes)
Haley Steele has posted team-leading 14 RBI in last three weekends and leads team with 18 hits with runners in scoring position.
@ASUSoftball has been ranked in the top-10 in 120 of the last 130 @NFCAOrg Polls and have been ranked in all 130 of those polls
@DalPal12 has posted a whopping 11.6-to-1 K-to-BB ratio in 2014, with a @Pac12 leading 163 strikeouts to just 14 walks.
Elizabeth Caporuscio is batting .625 (10-of-16) this season when behind the count and facing a 0-1, 0-2 or 1-2 count on the board.
@ASUSoftball has won six of last seven and nine of last 12 games against @StanfordSball and have won seven of last eight series.
@ASUSoftball has scored a run-rule victory in 14 of the team’s 32 games played to date and has been one run away from one in two others.
@ASUSoftball has a home run in 21 of the team’s 32 games played this season and multiple home runs in 11 of those games.
@BaileyWigness has been the hottest Sun Devil in recent weeks, batting .500 on 14-of-28 hitting in the last three weekends.
@BethyKemp already has eight home runs this season, one shy of last years total and eight more than her freshman year.
Clutch hitting has troubled @ASUSoftball if team’s five losses with the squad batting just 7-of-53 w/ RISP in those games (.132)
Scouting the Opposition
The Sun Devils have won six of the last seven against the Cardinal and nine of the last 12 games in the series. ASU is 50-25 overall against Stanford in series history and have won seven of the last eight series between the two since 2006. Last season, ASU took two of three on the road from the Cardinal, outscoring Stanford 26-12 over the course of the series. Stanford enters the weekend with a 23-8 record and is 1-2 in Pac-12 play after losing the second and third games in its series against California this past weekend. They are 0-3 against teams ranked in the top-25 this season.
Statistically, the Cardinal are led by several solid hitters and have eight players currently batting over .300 this season. Kylie Sorenson leads the way with a .398 average and a team-leading .532 on-base percentage, which is currently sixth in the Pac-12. Madi Schreyer has been the team’s ace this season, compiling a 16-5 record with a 1.89 ERA and has started in 20 of the team’s 31 games this season. The team has some speed on the bases as well, leading the Pac-12 in both doubles (1.68) and triples (0.45) per game and ranked in the top-15 nationally in both. The team is not neccesarily known for its long ball ability, currenty eighth in the conference with 13 home runs this season. Only Oregon State (10) has less thus far this season.
Craig Nicholson Takes the Reins
Craig Nicholson was hired on June 30. The head coach at Ball State for the past seven seasons, Nicholson amassed a 241-162 record with the Cardinals and holds a 964-252 career record. Nicholson replaces Clint Myers, who accepted a similar position at Auburn on June 14. On top of coaching at Ball State, Nicholson was the associate head coach for the Chicago Bandits of the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) in 2008 and helped the team to a NPF title.
The fastest coach in BSU program history to pass the 100 and 200-win marks, Nicholson was instrumental in Ball State capturing four Mid-American Conference (MAC) regular season championships (2009, 2010, 2012), a trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2010 and the program’s first All-American. Offensive minded, Nicholson saw much growth in the Ball State program under his tutelage.
Not since UCLA’s Sue Enquist retired following a World Series appearance in 2006 has a program coming off an appearance in Oklahoma City gone through a coaching change, making the Sun Devils a very unique program in that regard this season.
Follow the Action
The weekend will mark the first time this season that the Sun Devils will be featured in televised broadcasts as the team’s games on Sunday and Monday will each be aired on the Pac-12 Networks. Saturday’s game will be available via live stream at the Pac-12.com for free. It is important to note that only fans with access to the Pac-12 Networks through their local provider will be able to view Sunday and Monday’s games through the Pac-12 Networks channel or online at the Pac-12.com. Contact your local provider for more details. Additionally, fans are encouraged to stay tuned to ASU softball via social media outlets by following @ASUSoftball on Twitter or liking the team on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/ASUSoftball.
In The Rankings
The Sun Devils fell four spots to No. 7 in the NFCA/USA Today Coaches Poll and three spots to No. 58 in the ESPN/USA Softball Poll following the team’s 1-2 series in the Pac-12 opening series at Oregon State last weekend.
The View From The Top
Over the past eight seasons, the Sun Devils have been among the most dominant teams in the nation. One need look no further than the weekly NFCA Coaches Poll to get a gage of that. The Sun Devils have been ranked in 130 consecutive Coaches Polls, a streak that dates back to Week 2 of the 2006 season. The Sun Devils entered the top-10 in Week 6 of that season and have since been ranked in the top 10 in 120 of the 130 polls that have taken place since the team entered the rankings in 2006.
A Look Back - Oregon State
No. No. 7/5 ASU softball team dropped two out of three to Oregon State in the Pac-12 opening series in Corvallis. ASU fell to OSU by scores of 3-2 and 3-2 on Friday and Sunday, respectively, with an 11-0 (5) victory in between. ASU dropped to 27-5 on the season with the performance and is 1-2 in Pac-12 play. Haley Steele did her part in an 11-0 win with three hits and two RBIs, but she also went 4-for-6 in the two losses. She and Amber Freeman were the only players to collect hits in all three games.
Players to Watch
The Sun Devils entered the season with four returning NFCA All-Americans on the roster, the most of any team in the country. Only Alabama (3) is within one of the Sun Devils mark and is the only team with more cumulative returning selections (6) than ASU, who has five with Dallas Escobedo being a two-time All-American. Returning All-Americans Escobedo, Cheyenne Coyle and Amber Freeman have all been named to the USA Softball Preseason Player of the Year Watch List for the upcoming season.
The Road to OKC Goes Through Dallas
For the past three years, Dallas Escobedo has been among the premier pitchers in the nation. The two-time All-American and three-time First-Team All-Pac-12 selection has helped to lead ASU to the WCWS in each of her past three seasons in Tempe, including a National Championship in 2011. Escobedo is currently 11-4 with a 0.98 ERA and an incredible 163 strikeouts to just 14 walks - 11.6:1 K:BB ratio that will be tough to top on the national level. She has posted eight complete game shutouts - allowing just a single hit in six of those while saving her best performance for Longwood in a game of offensive struggles as she no-hit the Lancers for her third career solo no-hitter and fourth no-hitter overall. Escobedo has given up just 14 earned runs this season and currently ranks first nationally in both strikeouts and shutouts. Before anyone points to her four losses, it is worth noting opponents only managed 12 runs in those games (3.0 per game) but the Sun Devil offense managed just seven runs (1.8 per game) compared to 67 in Escobedo’s victories (6.1 per game).
100 Starts For Escobedo
Senior Dallas Escobedo now has 118 starts as a Sun Devil. In her career, Escobedo is second at ASU in wins (102), 16 shy of tying Katie Burkhart for first on the time all-time list. With 163 strikeouts this season, Escobedo‘s career number sits at 1,049 and she became just the second Sun Devil in history to eclipse the 1,000 K mark with with a strikeout against her very first batter of the Judi Garman Classic. She became just the 14th player in Pac-12 history to accomplish the feat and currently ranks 65th in NCAA career history for total strikeouts and is well on pace to continue to climb that leaderboard as the season continues. One significant area of improvement for the senior is the fact that she has given up just five home runs this season after giving up a whopping 39 last season, giving up 1.1 per every seven innings pitched. That number has gone down drastically this season as she is giving up just .36 home runs per seven innings thus far in 2014.
Add It To The Trophy Case
Dallas Escobedo went 4-0 at the Judi Garman Classic and put up some gaudy number at pitcher in the process en rout to a sweep of every major national and conference Player of the Week award. She was named the National Player of the Week by both the NFCA and USA Softball and the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week as well. Escobedo registered a 0.26 ERA and 38 strikeouts over 27 innings of work. Over the course of the four victories, Escobedo held her opposition to a paltry .060 batting average and a grand total of five hits. Included among her impressive efforts was her fourth career no-hitter, earned during a 13-strikeout blanking of Longwood, a one-hit shutout of then-No. 5 Michigan (nine K’s), 10 strikeouts while permitting just a single base knock in outlasting then-No. 16 Nebraska, 1-0 (8 inn.), and five innings of three-hit ball while allowing her only earned run for the week in a 9-1 (5 inn.) rout of Wisconsin. It was her first NFCA honor, third USA Softball award and the seventh Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week honor for the senior ace. She was also named the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week earlier this season.
Return of the Mack
Lest we forget, Escobedo is just half of one of the most potent 1-2 pitching punches in the country. Fellow senior Mackenzie Popescue has shown she is just as much an ace in the last two seasons and is a pivotal part of ASU’s success. Popescue has a 1.07 ERA this season with just 12 earned runs allowed (eighth in the Pac-12) and a team-leading 14 wins to her record (sixth nationally), pitching complete games in 10 games this season, nine of those being victories. Popescue gave up her very first home run against Detroit but that’s the only only she has given up this season, leading the Pac-12 in the category. Popescue has also been a capable fielder with 27 assists and three puts outs with zero errors thus far on the season. Popescue currently ranks third nationally in victories.
‘Ber, It’s Cold In Here
The reining Pac-12 Player of the Year, Amber Freeman, continues to consistently get it done at the plate. She leads the team with a .440 batting average this season and tied for the team lead with an 18-game reached base safely streak earlier this season. Freeman leads the team with 36 hits and a .500 OBP this season as well while ranking second in RBI with 24. Freeman holds the team lead with a 13-game hitting streak - the longest of any Sun Devil this season and the only one to reach double digits - that was brought to an end against South Carolina. She also leads the team by two games in most games with three or more hits with four such games. Freeman has been pivotal in keeping inning going and is second on the team with 12 hits when she’s at bat with two outs at the board on 31 attempts.
Red Bull Gives You Wigness
The hottest player on the Sun Devil offensive roster has been senior Bailey Wigness. Wigness is batting .500 in the last three weekends of action (14 games) with 14 hits on 28 at bats. She has a team-leading .576 on-base percentage in that time - over 150 points higher than any other Sun Devils - with three stolen bases. It was her single to the pitcher in the bottom of the eighth inning against then-No. 16 Nebraska that brought home the game-winning walk-off run. Wigness moved to the two-hole in the series against Oregon State for the first time this season. Wigness has advanced runners on 22 of 34 chances (.647) this season - easily leading the team in the category.
Alix Johnson has been among ASU’s most reliable base runners this season. Johnson is batting .321 on the season with a .482 OBP% that is good for second on the team behind Freeman while her 29 runs scored are six more than any other Sun Devil. At one point, Johnson had reached safely in 18 consecutive games, one of just three Sun Devils to accomplish the feat. She is third on the team with seven doubles this season and is already just one shy of her 2013 total in the category. Additionally, Johnson leads with nine stolen bases on 10 attempts. Her 26 walks pace the team and top the conference and she has successfully advanced runners on 27 of 46 opportunities (.587) this season - the second highest total among Sun Devils with at least 30 chances in that situation this year.
All-American Cheyenne Coyle had as good an opening weekend as anyone in the country at the Kajikawa Classic. The senior hit three home runs - including her fourth career grand slam - en route to a monstrous 1.313 slugging percentage to go along with a .619 OBP%. Coyle had a team-leading nine hits on the weekend and 11 RBI, more than twice the amount of anyone else on the squad. On the season, Coyle is batting .329 with 24 RBI and 54 total bases this season, ranking second on the Sun Devil roster in the latter two. Coyle has a team leading nine hites on 11 attempts (.889) when she has a runner on third and less than two outs.
Steele of a Deal
Haley Steele has been among ASU’s most reliable hitters in recent weeks and continues to bring runners home. The junior is now batting .365 on the year with five home runs but has quietly climbed the team lead for RBI with 30 - six more than any other Sun Devil on the squad. Steele has been the Sun Devils’ most successful batter when it comes to advancing runners, doing so 41 times of 76 attempts (.539) - seven more hits than any other batter. Steele also leads the team with 14 hits when facing two outs on 37 chances (.378). As if that weren’t enough, Steele also has posted the most hits with runners in scoring position in logging 18 hits in such situations, which is also four more than any other Sun Devil. In the last three weeks, Steele has posted a .362 batting average with a team-leading 14 RBI and also a team-leading 17 hits.
‘Ruscio, ‘Ruscio, ‘RU-SCI-OOOOOO
Elizabeth Caporuscio is another Sun Devil who has slowly been creeping up the batting average list for the Sun Devils and now finds herself batting .369 on the year (third on the team) with a team-leading 10 doubles in the process - ranking third in the Pac-12 in the category. Her 31 hits are third on the squad while she has posted a solid .424 on-base percentage. Caporuscio scored the game-winning run against then No. 16 Nebraska in extra inning at the Judi Garman Classic and was responsible for the game winning RBI and eventual run against then No. 5 Michigan to open the tournament.
B’s In the Trap
Bethany Kemp had one of the top performances of the weekend at the Littlwood Classic. Kemp batted .417 with five hits on 12 at bats. The more impressive feat, however, was the four of those hits went over the fence as the junior led the team with four home runs over the three days of competition. The junior currently leads the team with eight home runs this season and sits fourth in the Pac-12 in the category. Kemp leads the team with a .676 slugging percentage and has drawn 18 walks on the season, which is good for second on the team and eighth in the Pac-12. Kemp is already one home run behind her 2013 total and - with 17 career home runs to date - is just one shy of cracking ASU’s all-time top-20 home run leaders list.
While numerous Sun Devil newcomers have shined in the spotlight this season, none have had as impressive an impact as Chelsea Gonzales. The freshman is batting .362 on the season and has been exceptional at getting her bat on the ball. Gonzales has struck out just five times this season - the least among Sun Devil starters - and has posted a .400 on-base percentage.
Home Run Derby
There have been plenty of longballs this season for the Sun Devils, who are currently second in the Pac-12 with 40 this far this season. ASU entered the Diamond Devil Invite with 15 home runs before knocking 14 out of the park of the course of the four day event. While early (and depending on the length of the season) ASU is on pace to finish the season with around 80 home runs at its current clip if it played 62 games as it did last season. ASU has a home run in all but 11 games this season.
No Home Runs For You
While ASU has had no problem with the long ball this season offensively, they also haven’t had much of one on defense either. ASU’s pitching staff has given up just six home runs to date - a mark that leads the Pac-12, despite playing several more games than the majority of conference’s school.
All Your Base Are Belong To Us
Head coach Craig Nicholson has been adamant that this team will be aggressive on the base pass and force the opposition to make plays. If the start to the season is any indication, he’s a man of his word. ASU has 34 stolen bases on 43 attempts thus far this season. In 62 games last season, the Sun Devils were 39-for-45 on stolen-base attempts. The current team would be on pace for 83 stolen base attempts in 62 games.
Two Outs? No Problem
While the Sun Devils have been impressive from the batter’s box this season, the squad has done a fine job of getting it done with two outs on the board. ASU is 84-of-255 (.329) - just below the team’s .346 overall average - with two outs. Of those hits, the offense has provided 73 of the team’s 203 RBI (36.0 percent) coming with two outs on the board.
No Easy Outs
The Sun Devils have proven that they aren’t so easy to strikeout when falling behind on the count. When facing a 0-1, 0-2 or 1-2 count this season, the Sun Devils are batting .382 (54-of-141). The team has struck out just once with an 0-2 or 1-2 count on the board, meaning the Sun Devils are putting the ball into play or evening up the count and not going down easy for opposing pitchers when falling behind early in the count.
Don’t Miss Your Chance
ASU has been successful offensively this season largely because it has taken advantage of its chances when they are there. With runners in scoring position, ASU’s batters are 111-of-310 (.358) while being exceptional at bringing runners home from third with less than two outs, going 52-of-81 in such situations (.642). Of course that means you have to get runners in a position to score to begin with, and ASU’s batters have done just that in going 285-of-522 (.546) when it comes to advancing runners. And of course, someone has to get on base to make any of this a possibility, another feat ASU batters have been exceptional at. ASU’s leadoff batters this season have reached base 84 of 181 times (.464) while the Sun Devils are 114-of-343 (.332) with the bases empty on the year. To show the importance of these numbers, is just 7-of-53 (.132) with runners in scoring position in the team’s five losses and 1-of-6 (.167) with a runner on third and less than two outs.
Home Run Records
Five current Sun Devils rank among the top 20 on the all-time home run list at ASU. Amber Freeman is tied for seventh with 34, Alix Johnson is 10th with 33, Haley Steele is 12th with 30, Cheyenne Coyle is 16th with 26 and Elizabeth Caporuscio is 17th with 22.
Lights, Camera, Action
Days and times of softball’s TV games is on thesundevils.com. ASU will have 17 televised games on the Pac-12 Network in 2014. That schedule includes 10 home games that will be broadcast on the network. If that’s not enough for fans, than they are in luck as all of ASU’s remaining home games will be live streamed online through the Pac-12 website at http://pac-12.com/videos/arizona-state-university
On The Airwaves
Not only will every single home Sun Devil contest be either live-streamed or broadcast live on television, but for the second consecutive year Blaze Sports Radio will provide the call for all of Arizona State’s home games this season. Fans in the Tempe area can tune in at 1330 AM while they can also listen online at ustream.tv/channel/blaze-sports.
Note on WCWS
The Sun Devils have advanced the WCWS in seven of the last eight seasons, two more than any other program in the nation in that time frame. Alabama, Tennessee, Arizona and Florida have each been to five in the same span. In that eight-year span, ASU has one of the top winning percentages in the country with a 427-102 record since 2006. The .807 percentage is tied for third nationally with Michigan behind only Alabama (.837) and Florida (.810).
Winning Percentage Since 2006 (Prior to 2014)
1. Alabama - .837 (432-84)
2. Florida - .810 (437-102)
3. Arizona State - .807 (427-102)
Michigan - .807 (385-92)
5. Tennessee - .804 (421-102-1)
6. Oklahoma - .803 (384-93-1)
7. ULL - .775 (373-108)
8. Missouri - .748 (374-126)
9. UCLA - .747 (345-117)
10. Texas - .742 (347-120-2)