Alabama 2, Arizona State 1
As always, ASU’s Dallas Escobedo came onto the mound with guns blazing. This time, though, she was out-dueled by her opponent. Meet Jackie Traina, the owner of an NCAA-best 38-2 record on the year after Friday night’s victory.
If there was any doubt about her talent level, she shattered it with an 11 strikeout performance in which she only allowed one run. The Sun Devils, whose season average was .333 at the end of the regular season, were only able to get three hits and one run off of Traina.
But Escobedo, also among the nation’s top pitchers, wouldn’t give in too easily to Alabama’s powerful offense. After holding the Crimson Tide scoreless through all of the first four innings, Bama’s bats were able to secure their first run, followed by a solo slam in the sixth to take the lead for good.
The final inning wouldn’t be without drama, however. Escobedo’s complete game was a 149-pitch performance, one that was challenged in the top of the 7th when the Tide came knocking once more. After allowing two runners on with only one out, she notched consecutive strikeouts to end the danger.
Only down a run heading into the bottom half of the 7th, Arizona State had its best batters coming up to the plate. Talor Haro, hitting in the 9th spot, came to the plate first with a single, putting her on base for All-American Katelyn Boyd.
The law of averages didn’t apply here, though, as Boyd’s 0-3 day became an 0-4 day, with a failed bunt that resulted in an out at second. It was only the third time all season that the star batter had been held hitless in four or more at-bats.
From there, the momentum was all in the favor of Jackie Traina, who finished off the game with back-to-back strikeouts against Alix Johnson (another All-American) and Haley Steele.
To get to that point, the Tide had held on to the 2-1 lead that they’d found in the top of the sixth inning, with one blast over the center field wall from Amanda Locke.
Just one inning before, Escobedo suffered her first run and the fifth ended at a gridlock score, 1-1.
ASU started off the scoring in the fourth, with a clutch RBI from Sam Parlich after Freeman and Lockwood had drawn back-to-back walks. But Traina got out of the jam with three consecutive outs to quiet the Devils.
For Bama, the small-ball strategy worked well in response, and two singles turned into a run as CF Jennifer Fenton came up with the big RBI to tie the game at 1-1.
The victory will send the Tide into the national semifinals. Arizona State, on the other hand, will face off against LSU in an elimination game at 4:00 pm MT on Saturday.