It may have taken a deciding fourth game, but the defending national champion Arizona State softball team managed to win their region and advance to the Super Regional round in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. On Thursday, they opened that three-game series by hosting the dangerous No. 14 seed Louisiana-Lafayette.
While this match-up features two of the three highest scoring teams in the nation, only one offense showed up for Game 1.
Despite those potent lineups in both dugouts, the early innings were exciting but scoreless.
As they had in their prior meetings, the Cajuns tested ASU starting pitcher Dallas Escobedo. Coming into tonight, Escobedo had surrendered nine runs to the Cajuns in just 12 career innings. A pair of second inning Sun Devil errors put Escobedo in a jam, but a weak dribbler back to the mound ended the Cajun threat. The situation appeared a bit more dire in the third, with runners on the corners before Escobedo managed to throw behind Nerissa Myers at third, who was then tagged out by Haley Steele in the run down.
On the other side, the Sun Devil offense could not figure out Cajun pitcher Jordan Wallace. After Player of the Year candidate Katelyn Boyd made it to second in the first, the Sun Devils were retired in the next two innings on a total of just 10 pitches.
After posing those fruitless threats, the Cajuns opened the fourth inning with thunder. First, Paige Cormier took Escobedo yard to get a 1-0 lead. The Cajun bats were Ragin' as they went back-to-back, this time off the bat of Sarah Draheim. Those marked the fourth and fifth home runs allowed by Escobedo to Louisiana-Lafayette in her two seasons.
Meanwhile, the Sun Devil offense continued to do nothing. Alix Johnson got the Devils' first hit of the game, a leadoff single in the fourth, but went no further.
The Cajuns then tacked on another run in the fifth thanks to a sac fly by Matte Haack. With the way the ASU offense had fared against Wallace, that 3-0 lead may as well had been 30-0. But for good measure, the Cajuns kept at it. Haack struck again with an RBI single in the top of the seventh to drive in one, then Brianna Cherry tacked on two more with another single.
After that, Escobedo was taken out in favor of Mackenzie Popescue. With the six runs, Escobedo's career line against the Cajuns reads: 18 innings, 24 hits, 15 runs allowed.
Wallace then cruised during the final inning to earn the win. This game marked ASU head coach Clint Myers first home loss during Super Regional play.
Game 2 of the series will take place on Friday evening, with first pitch at 6:00pm and TV on ESPNU. With their season and title reign on the line, it figures ASU will turn to pitcher Hillary Bach and her 1.62 ERA to extend this series to a decisive third game. If she can succeed, Game 3 will take place later on Friday night.