It took Arizona State a little longer to get the job done, but when the dust settled over the weekend, both of the state’s Pac-12 softball teams survived their regional tournaments and are headed to the Super Regionals.
The Sun Devils had a little trouble with a pesky Syracuse squad that forced a double header in Tempe on Sunday, but the Arizona Wildcats rolled through its regional in Tucson with three straight wins.
No. 3 ASU (49-8) is on a mission to win its second consecutive national championship and went into the first round of the NCAA Tournament as the No. 3 seed. No. 11 Arizona (38-17) finished the season at .500 in conference play and with 35 total wins, the fewest regular-season victories since 1986, and were given a No. 13 seed.
The Cats were the lone national seed in the Tucson Regional, played at Hillenbrand Stadium. They walked over North Dakota State, 11-0, in the opener of the double-elimination tournament and then beat Notre Dame twice to advance to the Super Regional in Norman, Okla., against the Sooners.
Brigette Del Ponte got things going in Saturday’s game with the Irish by parking her 15th home run of the year in the first inning and Arizona went on to post a 7-2 victory. Kenzie Fowler struck out six and gave up eight hits.
In the finale, Shelby Babcock took to the mound and earned her 21st win while her teammates exploded at the plate for four home runs. A pair of freshmen, Shelby Pendley and Chelsea Goodacre hit back-to-back homers in the fifth and Goodacre came back in the seventh to join Jessica Spigner in adding two more round-trips to complete the 8-3 win.
Down the road in Tempe, Arizona State also got an early lift, beating Long Island University Brooklyn, 9-0, in five innings to open their tournament.
Sophomore hurler Dallas Escobedo posted 11 strikeouts in the next game to beat Syracuse, 3-1, but the Orange didn’t go away. No. 25 Syracuse came back to win the Sunday game, 1-0, forcing one more to determine who would move on to the Super Regional.
The Devils jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning of the second game and Escobedo struck out eight to push her record to 22-5. The 4-0 win set up a meeting with Louisiana Lafayette in the first game of the Super Regional on Thursday.
It was a good news/bad news victory for the Devils.
The good news was they would play the Super Regional at home where a sizable crowd of fans will fill Farrington Stadium, where the Sun Devils are 40-3 this season and 10-0 in Super Regional play.
The bad news was the opponent would be Louisiana Lafayette – which has lost just four games all year and gave ASU its worse beating of the season, a 9-2 loss back in March.
And out in Oklahoma this weekend, it won’t be any easier for Arizona. The Cats will face a Sooner team that is ranked No. 6 in the nation and playing on its own field.
Arizona has beaten Oklahoma two out of the three times they’ve met in Super Regional play. But the Sooners swept the Wildcats last year in the Super Regional that was played in Tucson.
This time, the Cats will have to turn the tables – the same way Oklahoma did last year.
The road to the Women’s College World Series is starting to get a little bumpy – for both Arizona hopefuls.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)