The No. 11 Arizona State Sun Devils opened the weekend with a 2-1 win over their rival, the No. 8 Arizona Wildcats on Friday evening in Tempe.
After struggling last weekend against Stanford, Dallas Escobedo recorded 16 strikeouts, a career high for a regulation game, to improve to 14-4 for the Sun Devils (31-5, 5-2 Pac-12).
When asked about the difference between last weekend and Friday night’s game Escobedo said, “I think just being able to flush last week and all through practice for two or three days, being able to focus in on what I was successful with. And then today I felt great in the bullpen and just being able to kind of lower my zone.”
Escobedo faced little trouble against the Wildcats (28-7, 3-4 Pact-12). After getting only one hit through the first four innings, the Wildcats loaded the bases in the fifth down 2-0, but Escobedo struck out Wildcat pitcher and pinch-hitter Estela Pinon to end the threat. In the sixth inning, catcher Chelsea Goodacre scored the only run of the game for the Wildcats with a solo home run to center field to make the score 2-1.
“I think the big thing for [Escobedo] was she was just really hitting her spots,” Sun Devil head coach Craig Nicholson said. “It’s hard to tell from the side but I know the ball was really moving tonight. You can kind of tell by the way the hitters react to it. I thought she had great stuff tonight, really commanded it.”
Despite taking the loss and falling to 9-5, Pinon pitched well for the Wildcats. The Sun Devils finished with only four hits, all coming from the 2-3-4 spots in the lineup, and stranded five runners on base. The last hit Pinon gave up was a two-run home run to Amber Freeman, her sixth home run of the season, in the bottom of the third inning. Freeman finished with two of the four Sun Devil hits.
“My first at-bat they were working me mostly away and that was kind of weird because all week I had been preparing for them to work me in because last year that’s all they threw me,” Freeman said. “Tonight I was just off the plate and they kept throwing me away which is kind of my pitch, so I squared it up.”
Like Freeman, Nicholson was expecting Pinon to attack the inside part of the plate a bit more than she did.
“That’s the way it goes sometimes. Pitching-wise, I mean,” Nicholson said “Both pitchers threw the ball outstanding tonight. When we hit our home run there was somebody on base.” With Mackenzie Popescue scheduled to start game two of the series, Nicholson said he does not plan to make many adjustments.
The second game between the Sun Devils and their in-state rivals, the Wildcats is schedule for 7 p.m., Saturday in Tempe.