ASU softball is back…21 runs & 9 homers bury California

Pity the poor softball team that is next up on the schedule after No. 5 Arizona State gets beat by an unworthy opponent.

Right now, that’s California.  And all the No. 10 Golden Bears can do is hunker down and take the beating as the frustrated Sun Devils use a barrage of home runs and shut-down pitching to outscore their visitors by a combined 21-2 runs in the first two games of a three-game series this weekend at Farrington Stadium in Tempe.

ASU’s head coach, Clint Myers, should finally be able to get some sleep after this weekend is over, even though they have this afternoon’s final game to play. The nightmares from a humbling, delivered last weekend by the University of Utah should begin to fade now.  The old team is back, the one that was ranked No. 3 in the country before meeting up with the Utes.

The indignity stems from the fact that un-ranked Utah is not even a .500 team on the year and is just one rung up from last-place Arizona in the Pac-12 standings.  But the Utes took two games of the three-game series, played in Utah.

That’s old news now.  Nine home runs over two games settled the issue of whether ASU (41-7, 12-5) has slipped off the track that most observers assumed was leading back to Oklahoma City for yet another berth in the Women’s College World Series.

The team that showed up this weekend left little doubt that Oklahoma is still on the Horizon.  The Sun Devils slammed the door early in each game, limiting each contest to just five innings my mercy-ruling the Bears.

They parked six home runs – tying the largest single-game total this season – in the opening game on Friday, cruising to a 10-2 victory behind a nine-strikeout performance by junior pitcher Dallas Escobedo from St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix, who now has 23 wins on the season.

Six runs and three homers in the first inning established ASU’s intent right away.  Back-to-back solo homers by Alix Johnson and Cheyenne Coyle got the ball rolling and then Sam Parlich added a grand slam shot to build the leader further.

It was the fifth grand slam this season for Parlich, the senior from Chandler’s Basha High School, and Coyle, who drove another over the fence in the fifth, had her second two-homer game this year.

After 11 hits in Friday’s game, the Devils collected just five on Saturday – but the difference was in having plenty of runners on base when the home runs erupted.  Haley Steele again put the Devils ahead early, using a three-run homer to left center in the first inning, and Freeman hit another, this time with three runners on in the second inning.  Bethany Kemp belted the third round-trip of the game, scoring two more runs in the second.

From there, the Devils coasted to the 11-0 shutout.

Mackenzie Popescue, the junior right-hander from Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, was the picture of control, striking out three and giving up just one base-on-balls as she ran her record to 17-3.

The Devils have already assured themselves of the series win, but undoubtedly feel the job isn’t done yet.  California will have to face their wrath one more time this afternoon when the first pitch flies at 3 p.m.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)