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No. 3 Arizona State enters final softball home stand with No.2 UCLA

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After an anti-climactic tie with No. 1 Oregon Sunday, the third-ranked Arizona State softball team concludes the Pacific-12 season at home with the No. 2 UCLA Bruins, beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday, with two more games at 5:30 p.m. Friday and 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

The Sun Devils (43-8-1, 14-5-1 Pacific-12) defeated the Ducks 4-2 May 2, before allowing nine runs in the bottom of the second during Saturday’s 12-2 loss, and a 2-2 tie was called due to rain in the finale that could have shaken up the rankings.

UCLA (46-5, 17-4) is coming off winning two of three at home over Stanford and is in search of its 10th league title, one game behind reigning Pac-12 champion Oregon (47-6-1, 18-2-1), which travels to No. 8 Arizona this weekend, where the Wildcats (40-11, 13-8) are undefeated at home (27-0) and boast the nation’s second-highest batting average (.357), behind Notre Dame.

Although the Bruins hold a 90-33 all-time advantage over the Sun Devils, ASU has won 10 of the last 12 and the four most recent series. The 11-time national champions and 24-time WCWS participants have not been to Oklahoma City since winning it all in 2010, and the senior class is in danger of being the first in program history of never reaching the final round.

The Bruins lead the Pac-12 with 67 home runs, with 15 coming off the bat of sophomore third baseman Mysha Sataraka (.349 BA, 50 RBIs). Junior Stephany LaRosa has a conference-high .556 on-base percentage (.396 BA, 13 HR), and center fielder Allexis Bennett is second in the league in batting (.462), just behind Oregon’s Courtney Ceo (.479).

Junior Ally Carda is UCLA’s MVP from both ends of the plate, and just pitched two wins with two home runs and six RBIs in the Stanford series. For the season, she is batting .401 with 11 home runs and 50 RBIs, while posting a 1.71 ERA, 27-3 record and 189 strikeouts. Senior Jessica Hall is also 15-2 with a 2.11 ERA.

Catcher Amber Freeman continues to lead ASU with a .435 batting average, third in the league, with 10 home runs and 42 RBIs. Haley Steele (.364) has an ASU-high 47 runs driven home, and her 11 homers are tied for the most on the team with Bethany Kemp. Chelsea Gonzales (.353) and Elizabeth Caporuscio (.344) are third and fourth on the team in batting, with Dallas Escobedo (21-6, 1.69 ERA, 293 strikeouts) and Mackenzie Popescue (20-2, 1.79) remaining stellar on the mound.

The games in Tucson will take place at 5 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Arizona’s Chelsea Goodacre leads the Pac-12 in home runs (21) and RBIs (69), wile Kelsey Rodriguez (.433), Hallie Wilson (.423) and Kellie Fox (.419) are among the league hitting leaders.

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