They won the national championship as freshmen and advanced to the Women’s College World Series as sophomores and juniors, and Saturday they were honored after their final regular season game as Arizona State softball players at Farrington Stadium.
One of the winningest classes in the history of NCAA softball consisted of six women: pitchers Dallas Escobedo and Mackenzie Popescue, outfielders Alix Johnson and Bailey Wigness, shortstop Cheyenne Coyle, and infielder Lindsey Edgerton.
“It’s a great class,” ASU coach Craig Nicholson said after his team’s 9-2 loss to UCLA. “You got speed, pitching, athleticism, you got some power behind Alix and Cheyenne. It’s basically all our speed graduating, it’s our speed that started it for us, and all our pitching. They carried themselves the right way, they’ve been through a lot with a coaching change, they’ve done a great job throughout their careers, and hopefully, we can do it one more time.”
Nicholson replaced Clint Myers last summer as coach, inheriting a veteran team that won the 2011 national title behind Escobedo’s 10-0 postseason record that earned her the co-Most Outstanding Player Award of the WCWS.
The intimidating competitor whose presence on the mound has petrified opponents for years broke down in tears when recalling her time with the Sun Devils.
“There’s so many fun times that I’ve had here…I’m going to cry…..just every time we came together and fought back,” she sobbed.
In total, Escobedo has a 113-24 career record, five wins shy of Katie Burkhart for the school mark and has consistently been atop of the NCAA’s strikeout leaders since arriving from Glendale and St. Mary’s High School.
“She’s had a phenomenal career,” UCLA coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said of Escobedo. “An outstanding pitcher, coming in and being a factor her freshman year, winning a championship, I have a lot of respect for her, and the fact that she continues to be successful her senior year says a lot of her ability. I’m glad she represents the Pac-12, going into the end, that kind of bodes well for us, getting to compete on such high-level pitching.”
Popescue, from Scottsdale’s Chaparral High, has a career ERA under two runs and is 20-3 this season. Johnson, of San Diego, was named a first-team All-American as a sophomore, her best season in which she batted .395. Leadoff hitter Wigness, from Casa Grande, has a .420 career batting average and is graduating with a perfect 4.0. Tempe and McClintock High product Edgerton was mainly used as a pinch hitter and redshirted the national title season.
Coyle’s memories of the 2011 WCWS are different, since she played for the Florida team that lost to ASU in the final series, where she was named to the All-Tournament team. She would transfer for her junior season, and in Saturday’s loss she hit her team-high 12th home run of the year.
“It’s been a good two years, that’s all……,” Coyle also broke out in tears.
The third-ranked Sun Devils (44-10-1) will find out who and where they play next weekend in the Regionals when the NCAA announces the brackets at 7 p.m. PT Sunday on ESPNU.