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Coach Nicholson earns 1,000th win as No. 7 Arizona State tops Utah

Dallas Escobedo prepares to face shortstop Anissa Urtez of Utah.
Dallas Escobedo prepares to face shortstop Anissa Urtez of Utah.
Scott Mammoser

In his first season with Arizona State, head coach Craig Nicholson picked up his 1,000th career victory in the Sun Devils’ 5-1 win over Utah Thursday night in Tempe.

It was the ninth win in the past 10 games for No. 7-ranked ASU, which improved to 36-6 and 10-3 in the Pacific-12, while the Utes fell to 16-17 and 4-9.

“I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of great players through the years, and when you have great players, you win a lot of ball games,” said Nicholson who obtained most of his wins from Central Arizona and Ball State.

The Sun Devils pounced on an early 4-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth. An Amber Freeman double scored Alix Johnson, and Elizabeth Caporuscio drove home Freeman with a single to center. After Bethany Kemp doubled, freshman designated player Chelsea Gonzales delivered a two-run double.

Gonzales had another timely hit in the bottom of the third to load the bases with one out, and Nikki Girard scored Caporuscio to widen the margin to 5-0.

“I was obviously a little nervous when there are runners on base, but I just try to calm myself down and try to get a base hit,” said Gonzales who is batting .367 on the season. “ It’s a lot of fun being out here with a group of girls who are so good at softball and learning, having a good experience.”

Dallas Escobedo’s no hitter was broken up by Utah’s leading hitter Kate Dickman (.424 batting average) in the top of the fourth, and she would also record the Utes’ next hit of the evening, a double in the sixth.

Right fielder Marissa Mendenhall put Utah on the board with a solo home run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, her third of the season.

“They were very aggressive, they swung at a lot more pitches than a lot of teams against Dallas,” Nicholson said.

Escobedo finished with eight strikeouts and is 17-5 on the year with a 1.65 ERA.

“I feel pretty great,” Escobedo said of her senior season. “ I’ve been going through every game one pitch at a time, being able to shake off home runs is more easier. I’m pretty confident with myself, my teammates pick me up, so just being able to believe in them and me in them helps.”

“It’s a great milestone in his career, with many more to come,” she added about Coach Nicholson.

Kayce Nieto and Mariah Ramirez split the pitching for Utah with three innings each and one strikeout each.

The same teams hook up again at 5 p.m. Friday from Farrington Stadium on the corner of University Drive and Rural Road. The final game of the series is at noon Saturday.