ASU softball gathers awards as NCAA region play begins

Regional competition begins tomorrow in the world of college softball, and Arizona State is going into battle with a full quiver of arrows.  The Sun Devil roster is loaded with players loaded with awards.

Amber Freeman, the sophomore catcher from Mater Dei High School in California, was just named the Pac-12 Softball Player of the Year and is also a First Team All-Conference selection.  The All-Conference first team roster includes three Sun Devils, with  junior pitcher Dallas Escobedo and junior shortstop Cheyenne Coyle joining Freeman.  This was the third straight year that Escobedo has been honored with that distinction.

And, on the national level, Escobedo received word two days ago that she was selected as the USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Week – a day after being named the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week.  This is the second time the much-acclaimed hurler from St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix received the national award, the first time as a freshman.

Mackenzie Popescue, the junior pitcher from Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, was named to the All-Conference second team – which shows the one-two punch on the mound that ASU brings to its quest for another appearance in the Women’s College World Series.  The Devils’ appearance in the WCWS last year was the 10th time in the history of the program, and a deep pitching staff is pretty much accepted as a requirement for making a run at the national title.

And, finally, the freshman first baseman from California, Nikki Girard, added to the list of awards when she was named to the conference All-Freshman team.

The Sun Devils (45-10) also enter tomorrow’s 12:30 tilt with San Jose State (42-15) with a little momentum following a season-ending series win against Oregon, the top team in the Pac-12.  The Ducks were also the No. 3 team in the country at the time, so winning two of the three games against them moved ASU from No. 5 to No. 4 – which is exactly where the Devils began this season.

Escobedo manhandled Oregon, picking up a win and a save during the weekend series by holding the Ducks to just two runs and a .119 batting average in 13 innings, striking out 19 along the way.

But San Jose State has an ace up their sleeve, too.  Their ace is redshirt senior, Amanda Pridmore, a hard-throwing right-hander that has led the Spartans to their first-ever Western Athletic Conference (WAC) championship and their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 21 years.  She has set or tied seven San Jose State pitching records in her four years at the school and was named this year’s WAC Pitcher of the Year.

The two teams have one opponent in common, New Mexico.  San Jose State beat the Lobos five times this season, including a 4-0 win in the WAC tournament championship game.  ASU beat the Lobos, 3-0, in the very first game on their schedule this season as Escobedo fanned 15 batters for her first of 25 wins this year.

This game, which will be telecast on ESPNU, should provide the Sun Devils with the kind of competition they need to prepare them for the post-season road ahead.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)