TEMPE – The No. 11 Arizona State University softball team has seemed to develop a penchant for dramatic walk-off victories, scoring another one on Monday evening with a 7-5 victory to complete a series sweep of the No. 24 Stanford Cardinal in Tempe, Ariz.
Senior Cheyenne Coyle launched a one-out, three-run shot into the netting protecting the team’s new scoreboard in left field in the bottom of the seventh inning to complete a five-run comeback and the fourth walk-off victory of the season in front of a crowd of 1,345 at Farrington Stadium.
Arizona State (30-5, 4-2 Pac-12) struggled to figure out Cardinal pitcher Erin Ashby, who pitched four scoreless innings to open up the game while Stanford (23-11, 1-5 Pac-12) took advantage on its way to a 5-0 lead through 4 ½ innings.
ASU four scoreless innings were a bit of a surprise, seeing as the team had scored at least a run in 12 of the 14 innings played in the first two games of the series.
“I think we came out a little flat to start,” Coyle said after the game. “We definitely could have come out a little better.”
But, trailing, 5-2 in the bottom of the seventh, the Sun Devils found the offensive mojo that had propelled it all series.
Chelsea Gonzales opened the inning with a hard single to the third baseman, advancing to second on Alix Johnson’s single to left. Bailey Wigness reached on an error to the pitcher to load the bases for Amber Freeman. With a full count, Freeman lined a hard grounder through the legs of the Cardinal second baseman to reach on an error and score Gonzales and Johnson.
After a Haley Steele foul out, Coyle stepped up to the plate and took the 2-1 pitch deep to left for second home run of the series, her eighth homer of the season and her first walk-off hit this year.
“I was hitting the ball well and just trying to get good pitches to hit,” Coyle said of her performance on the day, as she went 3-for-3 with a walk. “I really wasn’t looking to hit a home run, I was just looking to score one and tie it up.”
“The second I hit it, I thought it was a gapper, but I heard the crowd as soon as it came off the bat and kind of knew it was out of here.”
It was an eventful end to a weekend that had its fair share of drama, including a nine-inning, 16-15 victory for the Sun Devils on Saturday to open the series in a game where ASU gave up a six-run lead in the seventh, was forced to rally and then won the game on a bases-loaded walk-off hit-by-pitch.
The Cardinal got the offense rolling in the top of the second inning on a Jessica Plaza solo home run to center field and an early 1-0 lead.
The bats came alive for Stanford in the fourth as the squad batting around the order and put up four runs in the frame.
Erin Ashby led off the inning with a walk, advancing on a one-out Bessie Noll double to left center and scoring from third following a questionable call in which all in attendance saw a foul ball from Hanna Winter that was ruled fair and resulted in a double down the left field line.
Noll would come home on the following play on a throwing error from the Sun Devil outfield and Stanford moved ahead, 3-0.
With two outs on the board, Stanford hit three straight singles to bring Winter and Tylyn Wells and a 5-0 lead at the midway point in a game where the Sun Devil offense struggled.
Facing its largest deficit of the season at five runs at the midway point in the game, it looked like ASU would be forced to settle with winning the series but not the sweep. But the Sun Devils began picking away at things with a two-out rally in the bottom of the fifth starting a with Alix Johnson drawing a two-out walk.
Bailey Wigness slapped a ball to third base that was misplayed by the Cardinal infield, putting two on with two outs for Freeman. The junior catcher did what she has done best all weekend, picking up her fourth and fifth RBI of the series with a single to center field to plate Wigness and Johnson to bring ASU back within 5-2.
Stanford looked sure to make up the ground in the top of the sixth inning launched her fourth long fly ball on the evening that appeared as if it were going to go down as her first hit of the day on a three-run shot. But junior left fielder Elizabeth Caporuscio was having none of it, leaping just in time to snag to ball as it cleared the left field fence and the Sun Devils escaped the inning unscathed and set up ASU’s late game theatrics.
Dallas Escobedo improved to 13-4 on the season with the win, pitching seven complete innings with four strikeouts, five runs allowed on eight hits and two walks.
The Sun Devils will now have a short week of preparation as the team readies for a home series against in-state rival Arizona that will open on Friday at 5 p.m. with Saturday and Sunday games slated for 7 p.m. first pitches. All three games of the series are expected to be sellouts and will be broadcast live on the Pac-12 Networks.