After 2011 title, ASU softball at it again…16 straight wins

And the beat goes on.

Sunday’s win against Creighton University is the 16th straight for the Arizona State softball team, last years’ national champion.

The Sun Devils finished last season as the No. 1 team in the country and recorded a 50-6 record enroute to the national title, which they claimed by sweeping the Florida Gators in the best-of-three matchup.

It was their second crown in four years.

They were unstoppable on their way through the 2011 regionals and then the Women’s College World Series, accumulating 10 straight wins in post-season play.

So far, the Devils are about halfway through the 2012 regular season – and not far from unstoppable again.  They have just two losses.   Both came early during the Kajikawa Classic hosted by ASU.  McNeese State beat them in the third game of the season, 3-1, and then No. 9 Nebraska shut them out three games later in a 3-0 stunner.

But that was the last time there was any inkling of an offensive lapse.  Since that shut-out to the Huskers, ASU has barraged the scoreboard with 150 runs over 16 games – or just over nine runs a game.  The Devils posted 10 or more runs in half of those games.

The three runs they just scored against Creighton were the fewest since Feb. 11.  And they had to take the game, a pitcher’s duel throughout, into extra innings to get that many.

The Sun Devils (20-2) found themselves behind against Creighton until a freshman stepped to the plate.  Amber Freeman, the catcher from Mater Dei High School in California, hit the fourth home run of her college career to tie the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning.

In the eighth inning, Katelyn Boyd took the game in hand, just as the senior has done so often during her career.  The local favorite cleared the right-center fence with a two-run homer that kept alive the Devils’ win streak.

It seems like the graduate of Horizon High School in Scottsdale has always been there when the Sun Devils needed a clutch hit.  Boyd drove in three runs in the second, and final, win over Florida to help ASU claim the 2011 national championship.

And let’s not forget about Dallas Escobedo, the All-American pitcher out of St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix, who compiled a 37-3 record last year as a freshman.  The 2007 Arizona Player of the Year became the first freshman pitcher in more than 20 years to win the deciding game in a College World Series.

Escobedo (8-1) threw all eight innings against Creighton, fanning 11 batters.

But the sophomore is only half the story again this year.  Teammate Hillary Bach, a senior who is 8-0 with an ERA of 0.44, pitched a perfect game the day before in beating Wichita State, 9-0, in five innings.  It was just the fourth perfect game in the history of the storied ASU softball program.

Plenty of power at the plate, and two of the best college pitchers in the game.   It’s little wonder the Sun Devils are curently ranked as the No. 5 Division I team in the nation.

But they have to play Creighton again tonight as the final game in the Wilson DeMarini Invitational that is being hosted by ASU at Farrington Stadium.

Creighton is a D-I program out of Omaha that plays in the Missouri Valley Conference.  They’re 8-6 on the season, with just one win in the last seven games.

The Blue Jays snuck up on the No. 5 team in the country on Sunday.

That won’t happen again tonight.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)