No. 1 ASU softball wins Pac-10 title for just second time

The No. 1-ranked Arizona State softball team took care of business this weekend, winning just its second Pac-10 championship in program history.  The Devils clinched the title outright Thursday when they beat No. 11 Stanford in the opener to a three-game home series and boosted their conference mark to 16-3.

They went on to take the series, winning again yesterday to wrap up their regular season with an impressive 50-6 overall record.

Now they have to sit and wait for that part of the season that is out of their control – the post-season assignments.

Later this evening, the team will meet at Majerle’s Restaurant in Chandler and wait for the NCAA Selection Show to get underway on ESPNU at 7 p.m.  They’re inviting their fans to attend, so they can join the team in learning where they will be headed to play in the regional tournament, the next step on the road to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.

(*Update: ASU received the No. 1 overall seed and will host North Dakota State at 5 p.m. Friday.  It’s the first time the program was seeded that high.  UofA received a No. 8 seeding and is also playing on Friday, hosting Harvard at 6:30 p.m.)

Last year, ASU won their regional and went on to play Florida in the Super Regional in Gainesville, Fla.  The Sun Devils were seeded 13th in the Super Regional and were sent home by the Gators, who beat them in two straight games.

But the Devils didn’t have Dallas Escobedo on the mound last year.  The freshman sensation from St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix just concluded her first regular season of college ball by compiling a 27-3 overall record and posting a 1.42 ERA – the second-best in the Pac-10 this season.

She also owns the lowest opponent batting average in the conference (.169).

Escobedo won both ends of the Stanford series, a 3-1 victory in the opener and a 4-1 win on Saturday.

In the first game, she got a big assist from Katelyn Boyd, who parked her fifth lead-off home run of the season to give the Devils a 1-0 lead right off the bat.  That solo shot tied Boyd for first in the nation in lead-off home runs.

Mackenzie Popescue took the 6-1 loss in the second game, just her third this season, which also ended a 12-game Pac-10 winning streak for ASU.  Stanford buried the redshirt freshman from Chaparral High School with two home runs in the third that put the Devils in a 4-0 hole they couldn’t escape.

Stanford also took the lead in the finale when Escobedo walked four batters in the third inning, a new career first for the big freshman, and the Cardinal jumped to a 1-0 advantage.  But in the fifth, Sam Parlich singled, Boyd doubled, and then Annie Lockwood smashed a three-run homer to effectively seal the 4-1 victory.

So the Sun Devils are ranked No. 1 nationally for the first time in three years, and show every indication that they won’t be kept from a run at the national title.

Maybe the first indication that this would be a special year came a couple of weeks ago when the Sun Devils accomplished something no other ASU softball team has done.  They swept rival Arizona, ranked 10th nationally, on the road for the first time in program history.

This year, the road to Oklahoma City for ASU begins tonight at Majerle’s .

(Photo: ASU Athletics)