The anticipated duel between Arizona State’s pitcher Dallas Escobedo and Stanford’s own Teagan Gerhart lived up to its billing, as both aces pitched complete games, but the Sun Devils’ offense scratched out a couple of key hits and Escobedo pitched her way out of two bases-loaded jams on the way to a 3-1 victory over the Cardinal in the desert.
Arizona State (49-5, 16-3 Pac-10) came into the matchup as the nation’s top-ranked squad, and its potent offense got on the board early. Shortstop Katelyn Boyd, who was one of ten players recently named as finalists for the National Player of the Year award along with Stanford junior Ashley Hansen, led off the bottom of the first inning with a home run to left field. Freshman right fielder Caitlyn Pura made a running catch with a runner on to limit the damage for the No. 12 Cardinal (37-14, 9-10), and Gerhart settled down—she didn’t allow another run until the sixth inning.
But the night was one full of squandered offensive opportunities for the Cardinal. Escobedo proved to be wild, walking six batters and hitting two more. Hansen reached base on an infield hit in the first inning and sophomore second baseman Jenna Rich followed that up with an infield hit of her own.
Freshman designated player Michelle Prong walked to load the bases with just one out. The next two Cardinal batters struck out on riseballs from Escobedo, and Arizona State was out of the jam.
Stanford would load the bases again in the third inning, but Pura popped out and junior left fielder Maya Burns flied out to center, eliminating another Cardinal threat.
Gerhart found her rhythm with her sister Kelsey Gerhart catching behind the plate, striking out two batters in a quick fourth inning as Stanford headed into the late innings trailing by just one run.
And when Hansen led off the top of the fifth inning with her eighth home run of the season, it looked like the Cardinal might finally break through and get to Escobedo. But the freshman calmed down and retired the side.
In the bottom of the frame, the Sun Devils showed why they have lost just five games all year and have already clinched the Pac-10 title. A leadoff walk was followed by a single through the left side and then a sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third with one out.
That’s when Kristen Donnenwirth came through with her 47th and 48th RBI of the season, fighting a pitch off her hands and into center field that plated both runners. Gerhart coaxed two pop-outs to end the inning, but the damage was done.
Stanford went down in order in both the sixth and seventh innings, and Escobedo finished off the game to improve to 26-3—Teagan Gerhart dropped to 21-10.
With two more hits, Hansen pushed her batting average back to .497. She has two more games against the Sun Devils before the end of the regular season, but is currently leading the Pac-10 in average by .61.
The loss dropped Stanford under .500 in conference play at 9-10 and, coupled with Oregon’s victory over UCLA, put it back into the fifth spot in the Pac-10 standings. With a lot of teams jockeying for postseason position, Stanford is likely right on the bubble in its chances of grabbing one of the 16 bids to host a first round-matchup when the NCAA Tournament begins on May 20.
The series continues tonight at 7 p.m., with the finale scheduled for tomorrow at 2 p.m. The NCAA Tournament field will be announced Sunday afternoon.