ASU softball sweeps UA for first time in program history

The kitchen sink was just about the only thing the seventh-ranked Arizona softball team didn’t throw at No. 2 Arizona State yesterday, trying to stave off a first-ever Sun Devil sweep.

But it wasn’t enough, and the Sun Devils’ 8-3 victory clinched the first 3-game sweep of the Wildcats in program history.

Arizona sent a second baseman to the mound to start yesterday’s series finale, followed that up with a first baseman, and then brought Brittany Lastrapes in from the outfield to try her hand at slowing down the Sun Devils.  Finally, their regular pitcher, Shelby Babcock, stepped into the circle for the final 1.1 innings to wrap up the futile effort.

Babcock had already pitched in all 14 innings of the first two games of the series, 13-10 and 4-0 losses, so Arizona head coach Mike Candrea tried to give the freshman pitcher a little rest.  She was forced to carry the load alone after the Cats’ sophomore ace, Kenzie Fowler, suffered a freak concussion when hit by a line-drive foul while sitting in the dugout during the final game in the Washington series on Sunday.

Second baseman Victoria Kemp started yesterday’s game on the mound and gave up a three-run homer to Kristen Donnenwith, and then first baseman Baillie Kirker took over in the third and managed to get through two scoreless innings.

Perhaps the Cats should have stuck with Kirker.  When Lastrapes took the mound in the fifth, ASU was ready for her.  Annie Lockwood, the junior infielder from Paradise Valley High School, hit the game’s second three-run blast.

Lastrapes countered with a two-run homer of her own when the Cats came up to bat, but it was too little, too late.

The trio of ’emergency’ pitchers worked the circle for five and two-thirds innings, giving up eight hits and four walks.  It could have been much worse.

Kemp was credited with the loss, giving her a season record of 0-1.  And, if Fowler is able to return soon, she may end her college career 0-1.

But give both teams credit for making this a real battle between rivals, despite the absence of Fowler.

In the first game, Arizona held off the Sun Devils right up to the final out, when Katelyn Boyd parked a grand slam home run over the left-center fence with two outs in the seventh inning for a 4-0 win.  Babcock held one of the best offenses in the nation to just five hits, as her record dropped to 15-3.

And Friday’s game was one for the books, as ASU rallied from a 9-1 deficit to pull off a 13-10 victory, just the the Devils’ fourth win at Hillenbrand Stadium, which was built almost 20 years ago.  Boyd started the ASU scoring by putting the Cats back on their heels right out of the chute, hitting her fourth lead-off home run of the year, but Arizona came back to run up nine runs in the second.

ASU kept whittling away at the lead until it was 10-7 after six innings.

And then the nightmare from Friday returned.  Kaylyn Castillo, ASU’s senior catcher, put everything she had in her tiny 5’2″ frame behind a grand slam swing that cleared the left field fence to complete the comeback.

ASU’s freshman pitching sensation, Dallas Escobedo, picked up a couple of wins and a save in the series, improving her record to 21-3 on the season.

This series carried with it more than just the usual bragging rights between the rivals, and the points ASU picked up toward the Territorial Cup competition. It also gave the Sun Devils the edge in the conference standings.

The opening game of the series on Friday pushed the two teams into a tie for first place in the Pac-10.  With the last two wins, ASU (42-5) goes to 9-3 and sole possession at the top of the conference.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)