The ninth-seeded Arizona State University team was eliminated from the 2014 NCAA Softball Tournament on Sunday in Tempe, as Lyndsay Doyle robbed Amber Freeman of what looked to be a potential two-run walk-off home run to seal a come-from-behind 5-4 victory for the Wolverines in the winner-take-all finale of the Tempe Regional.
"Obviously, it was a tough day for us. The toughest part is we didn't play bad, we just, you know, we didn't get breaks when we needed to get breaks," head coach Craig Nicholson said after the game. "I really though we competed hard today. I feel terrible mostly for the (seniors)."
After dropping a 4-3 decision to UM in the first game on Sunday, the Sun Devils (46-12-1) had to face the Wolverines for the fourth times this season and third time this weekend and the result was a dramatic back-and-forth affair with a suitably dramatic ending.
With the Sun Devils holding on to a 4-3 lead in the top of the seventh, Sierra Lawrence launched her second home run of the game on a bomb to left field to even things at 4. That brought Taylor Hasselbach to the plate and she took the first pitch she saw over the wall in right center to put the Wolverines up 5-4.
After a leadoff groundout by Bailey Wigness to open the bottom half of the inning, Alix Johnson reached on an infield single that culiminated in a head-first dive into first base to beat the tag and give ASU a runner on with one out.
Cheyenne Coyle popped up to third base to bring up Amber Freeman with two outs on the board. Freeman drilled a line drive to deep center field that was intercepted at the wall on a leaping grab by Doyle, robbing the potential home run and sending Michigan (46-13) into the super regionals to take on Florida State in Tallahassee beginning Thursday.
""I did think it was out, and their center fielder made a great play," Nicholson said. "Again, that's what I am talking about, sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesn't. If that ball is six inches higher we are having a whole different conversation."
Dallas Escobedo took both losses on the day as she finished her season with a 24-9 record overall. She had seven strikeouts in the game with two walks while allowing 12 hits. In her career, Escobedo will go down as one of the all-time greats. She finishes her time at ASU with a 115-26 all-time record with 1,122 strikeouts – ranking second in ASU history in both categories.
"We all have our own memories, our own big games that we favor. Every opportunity to step on the field and play in this jersey, not a lot of people get that," Escobedo said of her career at Arizona State. "It may be just a game but I have been thankful for every game that we have played together and being Sun Devils."
Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the third inning, senior Johnson sparked a Sun Devil rally with a leadoff home run to opposite left center to evening things at two. Two batters later, Amber Freeman singled up the middle to bring up Haley Steele.
Steele, who was 0-for-8 on the weekend prior to a single in the first inning of the game, gutted out a marvelous at bat that featured numerous foul balls and the taking of bad pitches before she lined a bomb over the fence in left field to give ASU a 4-0 lead.
Lawrence brought Michigan within one with her first homer of the game, a solo shot to left center in the top of the fifth to bring the Wolverines back within a run.
ASU went down in order in back-to-back innings in the fifth and sixth innings, unable to add any insurance to their lead.
Michigan struck first in the game as three of the first four batters of the game singled in the top of the fifth inning to load the bases. Escobedo struck out Lawrence for the second out of the inning but back-to-back walks by Hasselbach and Lauren Sweet plated two for UM and an early 2-0 lead.
The Sun Devils got one back in the bottom half of the inning as Coyle scored from third following an infield Michigan error.
ASU finished the season with a 46-12-1 overall while going 15-7-1 in Pac-12 play to finish third in the conference.
Michigan 5, ASU 4
TEMPE – In a game in which all of the scoring came on long balls, the Arizona State University softball team came up one run short in a 4-3 loss to Michigan in game six of the NCAA Tempe Regional.
After defeating Dartmouth (8-0) and Michigan (4-1) in their first two assignments of the weekend, the Sun Devils entered Sunday needing to defeat Michigan once to advance to next weekend's NCAA Super Regional at Florida State.
Early on it appeared the Sun Devils would make it a one-game afternoon after Cheyenne Coyle sent a two-run shot to left field off of Michigan starting pitcher Megan Betsa to give ASU a 2-0 lead. Alix Johnson, who led off the game with a walk, scored on Coyle's home run.
Betsa would get Amber Freeman to fly out, but was pulled in favor of Haylie Wagner after issuing a walk to Sun Devil Haley Steele. Although she walked one batter before the inning concluded, Wagner was able to induce a pair of fly outs, preventing the Sun Devils from extending their lead.
It was a lead that would be short-lived as Michigan, which was the designated home team in the first game, would come back to knot the game at 2-2 in the bottom half of the first after Sierra Romero connected on a two-run homer.
Romero was able to draw a two-out walk in the bottom of the third inning, setting up teammate Caitlin Blanchard, who sent Dallas Escobedo's first pitch over the fence to give the Wolverines a 4-2 lead.
The Sun Devils would come back with a home run of their own in top of the fourth inning after Chelsea Gonzales recorded her third home run in as many games, a solo shot to center field to cut Michigan's lead to 4-3.
Each team would record a pair of hits over the last three innings of the game, however none of the hits led to any significant scoring threats.
Elizabeth Caporuscio (sixth inning) and Bailey Wigness (seventh inning) provided ASU with lead-off singles to start each of the last two innings, however in neither instance was ASU able to get runners past first base. The Sun Devils could not get the ball out of the infield as one strikeout and five groundouts enabled Michigan to escape with a 4-3 win, forcing a decisive seventh game.
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