Dallas Escobedo will lead USA junior softball team

It looks like Dallas Escobedo will get a chance to wash away that bitter taste left over from her final high school softball game that went very sour.

She can move on to her college career at Arizona State without that baggage she was carrying from a state championship loss.

Escobedo, regarded by most people as the best high school softball pitcher in the country, is one of two local players selected to play on this year’s USA Softball Junior Women’s National Team.  The other is Lauren Haeger, a very good pitcher in her own rite, but with one year of high school remaining to get her Deer Valley HS team to the state title.

Escobedo, the 2010 Gatorade Arizona Pitcher of the Year, put St. Mary’s HS on her back this year and carried the team all the way to the state championship game before giving up a two-run homer that cost the Lady Knights the title.

Fans of the sport have been watching Escobedo’s star take a meteoric ascent, beginning even before high school.   But in her freshman year she really set the stage for what would be an amazing high school career.  In her first high school game she pitched a no-hitter, striking out 17 batters along the way.  That year, she recorded 501 strike-outs to set what is believed to be a state record, and was named Player of the Year.

She began her senior year in even more amazing fashion, pitching back-to-back perfect games.  She finished the year with a 33-3 record, a 0.58 ERA, 500 strike-outs, and 10 no-hit performances.

Her 1,882 strike-outs during her four years at St. Mary’s is also considered a national high school record.  She also put up 37 no-hitters and five perfect games.

The addition of Haeger to the Junior National Team gives the USA one of the strongest pitching staffs they have had in years.  The junior has been pitching on the varsity team since her freshman year at Deer Valley HS, when she was a 1st Team All-Region selection.

She finished the 2010 season with a 0.62 ERA and 166 strike-outs, as she and mound teammate, Jenny Tyler, took Deer Valley to a 22-2 season that included a 16-game winning stretch.  They made it to the second round of the state playoffs.

Escobedo and Haeger have similarities that make them both valuable assets.  Both have good size to give them an imposing presence on the mound, with Escobedo going 6’1″ and Haeger at 5’10”.  And both contribute at the plate.  Escobedo posted a .412 batting average and Haeger hit .523.

Another local tie to the Junior National Team can be found on the coaching staff.  Yavapai College (Prescott) head coach, Stacy Iveson, will be on board as an assistant coach.  Iveson’s Roughriders were national champions in 2009.

Escobedo and Haeger will join with 15 other athletes representing seven states to form the junior national team.  They will compete in the III Pan American Softball Championship in Bogota, Colombia, Aug. 6-15.  That tournament will serve as a qualifier for the International Softball Federation’s Junior World Championships in Cape Town, South Africa, in December.

USA softball has won three gold medals at the senior level, but has also been very successful at the junior level.  The junior team has won three Junior Women’s World Championships, including a Gold Medal in 2007.

This honor puts the No. 1 pitcher in this country on the world stage, which is where she belongs.  The high school game isn’t suited to her intimidating style and 71 mph pitches.

This will be good for Dallas Escobedo.  Time to take the next step.

(Photo: Heather Chapman)