ASU softball displaying the power needed for WCWS return

Power at the plate.  That’s the propellant that is going to carry the Arizona State softball team through the season and likely through post-season play as well.

Another trip back to the Women’s College World Series (WCWS) awaits.

While an ace hurler, combined with a pitching staff with some depth, is an absolute necessity for success in college softball, there can be no success at the national level without the big bats.

And so far this season, the Sun Devils have been bringing the wood to every game.

ASU, which closed out the 2012 season with a third-place finish at the WCWS and No. 3 national ranking, is undefeated through twelve games this season and has moved up from a pre-season ranking of No. 4 to its current position back at No. 3.

While the Sun Devil ace, junior Dallas Escobedo, has been her usual dominant self most of the times, there has been some inconsistency.  But she has the luxury of a potent offense, there to back her up when the ball isn’t jumping with its normal activity, or the overpowering fastball isn’t hitting the mark.

The Devils have played two tournaments so far.  They outscored their opponents 45-2 in the first, the annual season-opening Kajikawa Classic, and then followed that up with five straight wins in the Littlewood Classic, outscoring their opponents 44-6.  Two of the five Littlewood games lasted just five innings, called by the mercy rule.

Both tourneys were played at ASU’s own Farrington Stadium, where the Devils get a huge gift this year with their first 27 games scheduled at home.  That certainly makes it more conducive to getting off to a 12-0 start… but that’s far from the main reason.

ASU has seasoned talent, returning pitchers, and… did we mention, power at the plate.

In their last game, the Sun Devils blasted a pair of home runs in putting away Big-10 opponent, the Minnesota Gophers, in just five innings. Haley Steele and Cheyenne Coyle both went 2-for-3 at the plate to help fuel the 8-0 victory.  It was the ninth game this season in which the Devils have had more than one home run, and have done so in each of the last four games.

A couple of games before that, Coyle joined with Katee Aguirre to record a pair of grand-slam home runs that swamped University of Illinois Chicago, 15-0 in five innings.

Aguirre stepped in as a pinch-hitter in just her second college at-bat.  Coyle, however, is a seasoned transfer from the University of Florida.  Head coach Clint Myers is hoping she will fill the void at shortstop left by graduated All-American Katelyn Boyd.

The junior is tearing up the base paths, already picking up a Pac-12 Player of the Week honor after hitting .474 during ASU’s undefeated run through the Kajikawa tourney.  Escobedo was selected the same week as the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week, making it the first time ASU players swept both single-week honors since April of last year.

Escobedo, the 2007 Arizona Player of the Year while at St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix, is 8-0 so far and has worked 45.2 innings, racking up 78 strikeouts.  She is backed up by another local product, junior Mackenzie Popescue from Chaparral High School in Scottsdale.  The 5’6″ righty provides the additional experience on the mound; she pitched 51.2 innings last year, finishing 7-2 with a 2.30 ERA.

Escobedo is one of three players on this year’s squad that was named to the USA Softball Player of the Year watch list.  The list also includes Amber Freeman, the sophomore catcher from California, and junior outfielder Alix Johnson, also a California import.  Freeman is one of just eight sophomores on the list of 50; freshmen aren’t eligible.

Arizona State is locked and loaded, and ready for its seventh trip to the World Series in eight years under Myers.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)