March 24, 2013
LOS ANGELES - Arizona State softball (31-3, 2-1 Pac-12) went down to the wire against No. 12 UCLA (24-6, 1-2 Pac-12), holding on for a 5-4 win and the first Pac-12 Conference series of the season.
ASU won two of three games against the Bruins to capture the conference series in the opening weekend of Pac-12 action. The Sun Devils led 5-0 after the top of the fourth but UCLA rallied to make it 5-4 in the sixth. UCLA put ASU to the test in the bottom of the seventh with the winning run on base but Mackenzie Popescue and the defense thwarted the threat for the save in relief, 5-4.
Nikki Girard proved she had the right stuff against the Bruins, ripping her second long ball of the series to boost ASU ahead 2-0 in the third. With two outs against the Devils, the freshman brought in Elizabeth Caporuscio with the shot - she reached on a fielder's choice in the preceding at-bat.
The Sun Devils stretched their lead to 5-0 on four hits and three runs in the fourth. Bailey Wigness got things started with a walk, then stole second and got to third on a passed ball. Alix Johnson plated the speedy Wigness with a double sliced to right center. The fourth run came in when Amber Freeman's single to right scored Johnson. To go up 5-0, Girard singled to left and pinch runner Butterfield crossed home, she entered to run for Freeman.
Britney Rodriguez put UCLA on the board in the bottom of the fourth with a two-run home run to left, making it a 5-2 ballgame. For the second time of the series, UCLA picked up all of its runs scored by way of home run. Stephany LaRosa led off with a homer to dead center in the bottom of the sixth, 5-3, with no outs on the board and a 3-1 count.
Two on and nobody out, Arizona State brought in Mackenzie Popescue with Bruin runners on first and second to help get the Sun Devils out of a jam in the bottom of the sixth. Dallas Escobedo left the circle after five innings and just one strikeout. UCLA was able to pick up one additional run, via groundout, before the frame closed, forcing ASU to defend its lead in the seventh, 5-4.
Arizona State did just that, holding on for a 5-4 win after UCLA had two runners on with just one out before the ASU defense grabbed the final two outs of the game.
With the save from Popescue, her first of her career, Escobedo gets the win. She is now a team-best 16-3. Paige McDuffee takes the loss for UCLA after 3.0 innings worked.
The Sun Devils host Oregon State in the Pac-12 home opener starting March 28 at 7 p.m. ASU will play Friday also at 7 p.m. and finish the series at 2 p.m. Saturday on the Pac-12 Network.
ASU is 3-3 against ranked teams in 2013.
Nikki Girard's home run is her third of the season and her second against UCLA.
Popescue's save against No. 12 UCLA is the first of her career.
With the win on Sunday, Escobedo has her first conference victory of 2013 and is 16-3 overall. She is now outright fifth in all-time career wins at ASU with 77.
This is ASU's seventh series captured against UCLA dating back to 1980. The last four meetings have had the Sun Devils take the series (2010-13).
Issued by the Pac-12 office, the May 11 game against Oregon will be at 5 p.m. now on the Pac-12 Network.