TEMPE -- The No. 3/3 Arizona State University softball team will face arguably its toughest test of the season as it heads north to square of with top-ranked Oregon with Pac-12 Championship implications on the line beginning Friday, May 2 at 5 p.m. PT. The Ducks will be the highest-ranked team the Sun Devils have faced this season and the first time ASU has taken on the No. 1 team in the country since battling No. 1 Cal back in 2012. Saturday’s game is scheduled for a 4 p.m. PT first pitch with Sunday’s game scheduled to get underway at 2 p.m. Both Friday and Sunday’s games will be broadcast live on the Pac-12 Networks while a live stream of Saturday’s game will be broadcast at http://pac-12.com/videos/university-oregon.
#10THINGS (Twitter-Friendly Notes)
Haley Steele is batting .556 in the last four series w/ 4 HRs and 13 RBI following a 2-for-13 showing in the Arizona series
@ASUSoftball’s has won 5 of the last 6 when trailing after the 5th, 6th or top of 7th innings. Was 0-5 prior to current streak.
Just a junior, @A_Freeman9 is now fifth on @ASUSoftball’s all-time home run list with 40 in her career and 10 this season.
@A_Freeman9 has reached safely in all but four games this season, hitting safely in all but eight of 47 games played.
@ASUSoftball has been ranked in 136-straight @NFCAOrg polls and has been in the top ten of 125 of those.
Mackenzie Popescue’s (@Wild__Thing99) @Pac12 Pitcher of the Week honor this week was the first of her career.
@ASUSoftball has six grand slams already this season, two more than last season and just two shy of the last two seasons combined.
This weekend’s matchup between No. 1 OregonSB and No. 3 @ASUSoftball is the highest ranking of two teams playing in @NCAASoftball this year.
Bailey Wigness, Amber Freeman and Elizabeth Caporuscio were all named to @CosidaNews Academic All-District Team this week.
@ASUSoftball has six players on the roster in the all-time career top 20 in HRs: Freeman, Steele, Johnson, Coyle, Caporuscio, Kemp.
In The Rankings
ASU’s sweep of Southern Miss in a series where it did not allow a single run propelled the Devils to a No. 3 ranking in both the NFCA/USA Today Coaches Poll AND the ESPN/USA Softball rankings. This matches the highest the Sun Devils have been ranked by either poll all season.
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 136 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 125 of the 136 polls that have taken place since the team entered the rankings in 2006.
Scouting the Opposition
Arizona State owns the all-time series leads against the Ducks with a 55-37 all-time record and have won eight consecutive series against Oregon - its longest streak of series victories over all Pac-12 teams. ASU took two of three from Oregon last season in Tempe when the Ducks entered as the No. 3 team in the country and have won seven of the last 10 games played in Eugene. Of the 27 series played between the two teams, ASU has only lost six - winning or splitting in the 21 others.
This year’s Ducks team is arguably its best in school history and and are No. 1 because they are good at both the plate and in the circle and enter the weekend on an 11-game winning streak. The team is led by sophomore pitcher Cheridan Hawkins, who is 28-3 this season with a 1.35 ERA and is second in the conference behind only Dallas Escobedo with 251 strikeouts. She has 11 shutouts on the season and has gone the distance in 18 games on the season. Behind her has been a very impressive Karissa Hovinga, who is 14-1 on the season with a 2.02 ERA and provides a formiddable 1-2 punch in the circle.
The Oregon offense is no slouch either and has really poured it on in recent weeks, outscoring the opposition 107-22 in its recent winning streak. The Ducks lay claim to the nation’s fourth-best hitter in Courtney Ceo, who entered the weekend batting .487 on the season. Ceo is one of eight Duck starters currently batting over .300 on the season on a team with a .347 overall average that sits fifth nationally. Kailee Cuico (13 home runs) and Janelle Lindvall (10 home runs) represent the pop in the the order, though 12 of 15 Duck hitters have scored a homer this season.
A K of a Different Sort
Those familiar with ASU softball are familiar with the K’s that Dallas Escobedo is so accustomed to but ASU reached abother K milestone this year. ASU head coach Craig Nicholson picked up his 1,000 career victory with a 5-1 win over Utah in the opening game of the series. He now has 1,006 wins under his belt after going 723-90 in a decade of action at Central Arizona College before leading Ball State to being perennial contenders in the MAC with a 241-162 record overall during his time there. With 39 wins under his belt this season, Nicholson finds himself with a career 1006-259 record (.795).
Craig Nicholson Leading the Way
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 1003-259 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, 2013), 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
Friday and Sunday’s games this weekend will be available live via the Pac-12 Networks. Please contact your local cable or satellite provider for more details. For those that have access to the Network, the games will also be able for viewing online via the Pac-12.com/live site. Saturday’s game will be streamed live online at http://pac-12.com/videos/university-oregon. As always, fans are enocurage to follow us on Twitter (ASUSoftball) or like us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/asusoftball) for updates throughout the weekend.
A Look Back - Southern Miss
Last week, the Sun Devils hosted Southern Miss in their final non-conference series of the year. Mackenzie Popescue threw her third career no-hitter in Friday’s 8-0 win, and she and Escobedo did not allow a run in the three-game sweep of the Golden Eagles. Haley Steele continued her hot streak as she extended her team leading hitting streak to six games with a hit in each of the three games, including two home runs on the weekend. Escobedo only pitched one game but did plenty of damage, throwing for a career regulation high of 16 strikeouts in a shutout perofrmance.
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.
And Then There Were 25
Dallas Escobedo and Amber Freeman have both been named as finalists for the 2014 ASA/USA Softball National Player of the Year. Both began the season on the Top 50 Players to Watch list along with (Cheyenne Coyle) and made the “midseason” cut as announced by the organization prior to the Utah series. The 25 finalists will be narrowed to 10 prior to the beginning of postseason play. This is the first time ASU has had two players in the Top 25 since placing three on the list from the 2008 National Championship roster.
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 20-6 with a 1.65 ERA and an incredible 273 strikeouts to just 36 walks - for a whopping 7.6:1 K:BB ratio. She has posted 10 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 currently ranks second nationally in strikeouts and eighth in shutouts. Before anyone gets excited about her six losses, it is worth noting opponents only managed 21 runs in those games (3.5 per game) but the Sun Devil offense only mustered 14 runs (2.3 per game) total. On the flipside, the ASU offense has 131 runs in Escobedo’s victories (6.6 per game) and truly had the senior’s back in the Stanford series when Escobedo gave up 12 total earned runs - nearly twice her total entering the series - but still came away with two victories in the series sweep.
Senior Dallas Escobedo now has 128 starts as a Sun Devil. In her career, Escobedo is second at ASU in wins (111), seven shy of tying Katie Burkhart for first on the time all-time list. With 273 strikeouts this season, Escobedo‘s career number sits at 1,159 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 1,000 strikeout feat and is currently 42nd in NCAA career history for total strikeouts and is well on pace to continue to climb that leaderboard as the season continues. Escobedo has been incredibly strong in not allowing two-out rallies, holding opponents to a paltry .115 batting average with runners in scoring position and two outs. She has given up just six hits in that situation on 52 at-bats with a whopping 25 strikeouts.
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 leads the team with a 1.35 ERA this season with just 24 earned runs allowed and 20 wins to her record (26th nationally) to just one loss, pitching complete games in 16 games this season, 15 of those being victories. Popescue picked up the third no-hitter of her career in a five-inning, 8-0 victory over Southern Miss. Popescue has also been a capable fielder with 37 assists and six puts outs with zero errors thus far on the season. Popescue thrives under pressure as opponents are batting .235 against her with the bases empty (.270 on leadoff batters) but that average comes way down to just .203 when she has a runner on base.
‘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 .435 batting average this season that is fourth in the Pac-12. Freeman leads the team with 60 hits and a .506 OBP this season as well, while ranking second in RBI with 40. Freeman has hit safely in all but eight games on the season (including 19 of the last 21) and has reached base in all but four games of the 47 appearances she has made. Additionally, Freeman has just one single error this year, recording 258 putouts and five assists for a an almost perfect .996 fielding percentage. She is second on the team in most games with multiple hits, doing so in 16 games while tied for the team lead in games with three or more hits with five. Freeman has been pivotal in keeping the inning going and is leading the team with 20 hits when she’s at bat with two outs on the board on 53 attempts (.377) with 11 two-out RBI and four of her 10 homers in such situations. There’s plenty more situational love for the junior, who has also had 100 opportunities to advance runners from the three-hole and has successfully done so 56 times (.560).
Just Getting a Read On Things
On the season, Amber Freeman is batting .375 on 15-of-40 hitting in the first innings of games from the three hole with five RBI, one home run and a .524 slugging percentage. Not bad numbers by any stretch when you look at just one inning of action. However, that’s before you see what she has done the second time through the order against pitchers. In the third and fourth innings this season, when Freeman typically takes her second at-bat of games, she is batting an incredible .543 on 25-of-46 hitting with 13 RBI, 5 homers and a whopping .913 slugging percentage.
Haley Steele has made no reservations about wanting to be an All-American this season and she is putting up the numbers to back it up. The junior is batting .387 (second on the team) on the year with a team-leading 11 home runs and has the team lead for RBI with 47. After going 2-for-13 in the Arizona series, Steele was seen in the batting cages immediately after one of the games with the ball machine. Since that moment, the junior has been on an absolute tear, batting .556 on 20-of-38 hitting in the last four series with 13 RBI, five doubles and five homers and a wicked 1.111 slugging percentage.
Steele of a Deal
Steele has been the Sun Devils’ most successful batter when it comes to advancing runners, doing so 58 times of 109 attempts (.532) - the most hits of any batter in that situation. As if that weren’t enough, Steele also has posted the most hits with runners in scoring position in logging 25 hits in such situations. Steele has taken it to a new level in Pac-12 play as she leads the team ahead of Freeman with a .443 batting average - good for seventh in the Pac-12 in league games - with four home runs and team-leading five doubles. Steele became the only player this season to reach four hits in a game, doing so in a 10-inning, 3-2 loss to Washington. She is tied for the team lead with Freeman for most games with three or more hits at five. Steele has a hit in all but three Pac-12 games this season and a hit in 11 of the last 12 games, logging multiple hits in six of those games.
‘Ru-sci-o, ‘Ru-sci-o, ‘RU-SCI-OOOOOO
Elizabeth Caporuscio is another Sun Devil that has been putting together and incredible year for ASU and currently batting .352 (fourth on the team) with a team-leading 15 doubles in the process - good for third in the Pac-12. Her 50 hits are third on the squad while she has posted a solid .387 on-base percentage. She currently leads the team with 16 two-out RBIs and has proven she is the hitter you want with the bases loaded, with five hits in 10 opportunities (.500) with a grand slam this season. Caporuscio is also the only Sun Devil to record a triple this season. Since Pac-12 play has begun, She leads the team with nine hits on 22 chances (.409) with runners in scoring position in Pac-12 action and leads the team overall with 17 multi-hit games.
Red Bull Gives You Wigness
Bailey Wigness continues to remain at the top of the Sun Devil batting average list this season, currently fifth with a .343 average and a .375 career average that would rank sixth in ASU history if the season ended today.. 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 in 1-0 victory at the Judi Garman Classic. Wigness has advanced runners on 43 of 64 chances (.672) this season - easily leading the team in the category by nearly 100 points over anyone who has had at least 40 oppurtunities to advance runners. Since Pac-12 play began, Wigness has advanced runners 22-of-33 times (.667). Wigness is also tied for the team lead in steals with 12 this season, which tied for seventh in the Pac-12. She had three in the series finale against Southern Miss.
Alix Johnson has been among ASU’s most reliable base runners this season. Johnson is batting .308 on the season but still finds herself with an on-base percentage of .484 that is good for second on the team behind Freeman. Her 47 runs scored are 13 more than any other Sun Devil. She is tied for third on the team with nine doubles this season and has already surpassed her 2013 total in the category. Additionally, Johnson is tied for the team lead with 12 stolen bases on 14 attempts and is seventh in the conference. Where Johnson has truly shined, however, is her ability to take bad pitches. Her 47 walks pace the team and are six more than anyone else in the Pac-12 conference. She has successfully advanced runners on 43 of 75 opportunities (.573) this season. She has served as the leadoff batter in 54 innings this season, safely reaching base on 29 of those chances for a .537 average.
On the season, Cheyenne Coyle is batting .316 with 39 RBI while also drawing 35 walks, which is good for second on the team and fourth in the Pac-12. Coyle has a team leading 13 hits on 15 attempts (.867) when she has a runner on third and less than two outs. On 57 leadoff opportunities this season, Coyle has safely reached base on 32 of them (.561). She has 10 homers this season and currently ranks 13th in ASU history with 30 home runs, despite playing just under two seasons with the Sun Devils.
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 11 home runs this season, tied with Haley Steele at the top. Kemp is second on the team with a .647 slugging percentage and has drawn 28 walks on the season, which is good for third on the roster. Kemp has already surpassed last year’s total (9) with 11 homers this season and - with 20 career home runs to date - is 19th on ASU’s all-time home run list. Kemp is currently third on the team in Pac-12 action with a .347 batting average.
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 .360 on the season - third on the team - and has been exceptional at getting her bat on the ball. Gonzales has struck out just seven times - the least among Sun Devil starters - and has posted a .387 on-base percentage. She leads the team lead in two-out RBI with 11 in Pac-12 action while going 4-for-5 in league play with the bases loaded. She has 17 RBI in Pac-12 games this season, a total that also leads the team. Gonzales’ performance this seasonshas earned her a spot as one of 25 semifinalists for the National Freshman of the Year trophy to be presented by the NFCA at the end of the season.
There have been plenty of longballs this season for the Sun Devils, who are currently third in the Pac-12 and ninth nationally with 63 thus 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. ASU is currently 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 - a total that would be good for the sixth highest amount in program history. ASU has a home run in all but 16 games this season and is 31-2 in games where they hit a home run.
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 19 home runs to date - a mark that leads the Pac-12.
More Time For Activities
The Sun Devil offense has ended games before the seventh inning 18 times this season, or in about 37 percent of all games played. ASU has four run-rule victories in Pac-12 action thus far and has already surpassed last year’s season total of 15 total run rules while inching closer to the school record of 24, set in 2012.
Grand Slama Jamma
The ASU offense has booted six grand slams this season, two more than last season and just two shy of the total from the last two years combined (8).
All Your Base Are Belong To Us
ASU has 45 stolen bases on 55 attempts in 2014. In 62 games last season, the Sun Devils were 39-for-45 on stolen-base attempts.
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 126-of-399 (.316) - just below the team’s .341 overall average - with two outs. 105 of the team’s 305 RBI (34.4 percent) this season have come with two outs on the board.
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 165-of-477 (.346) while being exceptional at bringing runners home from third with less than two outs, going 77-of-122 in such situations (.631). 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 453-of-835 (.543) 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 138 of 293 times (.471) while the Sun Devils are 177-of-540 (.328) with the bases empty on the year. To show the importance of these numbers, ASU is just 12-of-85 (.132) with runners in scoring position in the team’s seven losses and 3-of-14 (.214) with a runner on third and less than two outs. Bringing runners home has also been an issue for ASU at times, as the team has stranded 332 runners this season - including seven games that have reached double digits - compared to just 260 on the opponent’s side.
ASU is now 5-6 this season when trailing following the fifth, sixth or top of the seventh innings in games this season. That’s notable as prior to the Stanford series, ASU was 0-5 in such games. ASU stifled that stigma twice against Stanford as they came back from a two-run deficit in the seventh to tie the game and win in extras in the first game of the series before a five-run walk-off rally in the seventh in the final game. The Sun Devils added another to the tally with a four-run fifth inning to come back from a 1-0 deficit against Arizona in the second game of the series. The Sun Devils were also able to overcome a late Utah home run that gave the Utes a 4-2 lead in the sixth inning and ruined UW’s Kaitlyn Inglesby’s perfect game/no-hit bid in the seventh inning after trailing 1-0 in that game.
Home Run Records
Six current Sun Devils rank among the top 20 on the all-time home run list at ASU. Amber Freeman is fifth with 40, Haley Steele is tied for seventh with 36, Alix Johnson is ninth with 35, Cheyenne Coyle is 13th with 30, Elizabeth Caporuscio is 17th with 23 and Bethany Kemp entered the ranks this season and is currently 19th with 20.
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.
Order a New Trophy Case
Dallas Escobedo continued her career haul of honors as she was selected as the No. 1 pick in the 2014 National Pro Fastpitch Draft by the Pennsylvania Rebellion, entering their first season of action on the circuit. Just a day later, Escobedo was named as one of 10 finalists for the Senior CLASS Award, which is given annual and honors the attributes of senior student-athletes in four areas: community, classroom, character and competition. She has also been named as one of 25 finalist for the ASA/USA Softball Nationa Player of the Year honor.
Lights, Camera, Action
Days and times of softball’s TV games are 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)
Opening Day Success
Arizona State is now 38-7 on opening day dating back to 1971. The last time ASU lost its first game of the season was back in 1995.
More on Arizona Victory
The Sun Devils improved to 8-2 this season against teams ranked in the NFCA Top-25 with with a 2-1 weekend series against then No. 8/9 Arizona. The most notable facet of ASU performance against the Wildcats was the fact that the UA entered the weekend as arguably the top offensive team in the nation. The Wildcats were No. 1 in both runs per game and slugging percentage nationally and led the way in just about every offensive category in the Pac-12. Even with the six-run effort in the final game of the series, ASU held the WIldcats to a grand total of eight runs in three games after the UA entered the game averaging just under eight runs per game.
Where 2013 Left Off
The Sun Devils dropped two games in the 2013 WCWS en route to a 50-12 season overall. The appearance in the WCWS was ASU’s seventh in the last eight seasons, two more than any other team in the nation in that time. The Sun Devils finished the year 16-8 in conference play and tied for second in the Pac-12 with Washington. The team opened the season with a porgram best 21-0 record to start the season and finished the year with an incredible 40-3 record at home. Catcher Amber Freeman was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year while Freeman, Dallas Escobedo and Cheyenne Coyle were all named NFCA All-Americans.
Sam Parlich | 2B, .348 avg, 10 HR, 41 RBI, .541 SLG%, .368 OBP%, 61 starts
Lucy Aubrecht | C/DP, .313 avg, 5 HR, 27 RBI, .542 SLG%, .417 OBP%