ASU Softball opens 2014 NCAA Tourney with 8-0 run rule over Dart - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

ASU Softball opens 2014 NCAA Tourney with 8-0 run rule over Dartmouth

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The fourth-ranked and ninth-seeded Arizona State softball team (45-10-1) continued its winning postseason ways at home in the opening round of the Tempe Regional Friday afternoon with a five-inning 8-0 win over Dartmouth (31-18).

ASU, 31-3 in postseason home games since 2006, will now host Michigan on Saturday at 3 p.m. PT on ESPNU.

ASU notched six in the fifth when Alix Johnson led off with her tenth double of the year and advanced to third on a fielder's choice. After an Amber Freeman walk, Haley Steele bounced one to third and Johnson forced a rundown and scored. Elizabeth Caporuscio and Bethany Kemp both had RBI singles, Chelsea Gonzales drove in a run on a groundout and Nikki Girard hit a two-run home run, her fourth of the year, to seal the walk-off 8-run rule win.

It marked Girard's third walk-off play of the year, the others coming on a fielder's choice against Longwood earlier this season and a bases loaded hit by pitch in ASU's dramatic nine-inning victory over Stanford.

The victory marked the 10th walkoff victory of the season for the Sun Devils 19th run-rule victory of the season, which is the third-most in program history.

Freshman Chelsea Gonzales hit her sixth home run of the year in the bottom of the second inning to give ASU a 2-0 lead.

"Obviously, we got off to a little bit of a slow start in today's game but Dallas did a great job of keeping them off the board early," head coach Craig Nicholson said after the game. "I felt like our second time through the lineup we started making some adjustments and third time we really did a great job of squaring some balls up."

Dallas Escobedo (23-7) tossed a one-hitter with eight strikeouts and improved to 16-2 in Tempe in her postseason career with seven shutouts and a 110 strikeouts. Escobedo has not given up an earned run in the last 39 innings of regional action, dating back to the 2012 postseason.  Her performance on Friday was her seventh one-hitter of the season and 12th complete game shutout.  

"It's kind of a mentality thing and I could feel it within the first five to ten minutes of my bullpen," Escobedo said of her hot play. "Being able to just say, 'You know, I've been here a million times', and I just wanted to do it and go at them."

It marked the first NCAA Tournament appearance for Dartmouth and just the second meeting between ASU and an Ivy League team. Dartmouth posted an 18-2 league record en route to its first conference crown.

VS. MICHIGAN: For the second consecutive season, the Sun Devils will play Michigan after having played them once during the regular season. Last season, Michigan eliminated ASU from the WCWS after playing the Sun Devils at the Judi Garman Classic. This season, ASU topped Michigan in a 2-0 decision at the Judi Garman tournament.  ASU and Michigan have met in each of the last four seasons, with UM holding a 3-2 advantage in that time. Michigan is 43-12 record and is ranked 13th in both the Coaches and ESPN polls.

POSTSEASON: The Sun Devils are making their 26th appearance in NCAA Tournament history, the fourth-highest tally of the 64 teams in this year's tournament behind only UCLA, Arizona and Florida State. This also marks the 10th consecutive NCAA appearance for ASU. Entering this year ASU is 83-49 all-time in the NCAA Tournament and is 53-15 since 2006 in the tournament with two NCAA Championships and seven trips to the WCWS in that time with an incredible 30-3 record at home in the span.

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