Arizona third baseman Brigette Del Ponte said earlier this week she would be giving her teammates some advice on how to hit against her best friend, ASU freshman Dallas Escobedo.
Escobedo retired the first 16 batters and finished with a one-hitter, keeping the Wildcats at bay until the Sun Devils could break through against Arizona freshman Shelby Babcock. They finally did with two outs in the seventh as Katelyn Boyd hit a grand slam, powering ASU to a 4-0 victory in front of 2,704 at Hillenbrand Stadium.
“She was tough,” Del Ponte said of Escobedo, her childhood friend from the Phoenix area. “She hit her spots well.”
Babcock, filling in for Arizona ace Kenzie Fowler — who is still suffering from concussion symptoms after being stuck in the forehead Sunday by a foul ball — nearly matched Escobedo.
Arizona State loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh on a single, a walk and a single. Talor Haro bounced into a force out in front of the plate, setting the stage for Boyd to take a drop ball over the fence in left-center field. It was Boyd’s team-high 13th homer of the season.
“I felt like I did a really good job tonight,” said Babcock, who allowed five hits. “The last inning, I made a mistake and it’s going to kill you. I left the ball a little too over the plate to a really good hitter.”
Second-ranked ASU improved to 40-5 overall, 7-3 in the Pac-10. Seventh-ranked Arizona is 36-9, 7-3.
Escobedo (20-3) struck out 11 and walked two — both with one out in the sixth. Karissa Buchanan’s soft, two-out single broke up the no-hitter and loaded the bases for Brittany Lastrapes, who struck out on four pitches.
“She threw some pitches when she needed to,” said Arizona coach Mike Candrea. “And then toward the end of the game she started using her off-speed pitch a little. She did what she needed to do.”
ASU is sure to see more of Babcock (15-3) because Fowler won’t pitch in the three-game series, which continues Friday at 7 p.m.
Candrea said he was pleased with how Babcock competed against Arizona State, which entered the game with a Pac-10-best .359 batting average. Babcock struck out four and walked four.
“I love it when Shelby does good,” Del Ponte said. “She has that big ol’ smile on her face and stuff. She works hard. I guarantee you she will come out and shut them out tomorrow.”
Arizona will see Escobedo again at some point in the series, and Del Ponte said the Arizona hitters need to lay off her rise ball. Escobedo retired several batters on pop-ups.
“Ever since we were little this is what she throws,” Del Ponte said. “We just have to work on getting it in the zone.”