Tag Archives: Arizona State University

ASU women’s softball team tops preseason Pac-12 poll

Locally raised ASU players last May before the start of the NCAA tournament (left to right): Breanna Kaye (Glendale- Mountain Ridge), Dallas Escobedo (Glendale- St. Mary’s), Talor Haro (Mesa- Highland), Mackenzie Popescue (Scottsdale- Chaparral), Sam Parlich (Chandler- Basha), Katelyn Boyd (Phoenix- Horizon), Annie Lockwood (Phoenix- Paradise Valley High)

The defending national champion ASU women’s softball team has been named the top team in a preseason poll of Pac-12 coaches. The Sun Devils start their 2012 season on Thursday, February 9, with a 5 p.m. game in Tempe against Western Michigan.  The game is the first of the four-day Kajikawa Classic, which features seven other college teams.  All games will be played at ASU’s Farrington Stadium.

Last May, we sat down with seven locally raised ASU players shortly before they started their successful run in the Women’s College World Series.  The players, including All-Americans Katelyn Boyd and Dallas Escobedo, gave their tips to both players and parents on how to develop your softball skills and get noticed by college coaches.  You can read their advice by clicking here.

For a full schedule of the Sun Devils’ upcoming season and information on tickets, click here and here.

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Homegrown talent, hometown edge: ASU Softball’s local lineup

Left to right): Breanna Kaye (Mountain Ridge H.S.), Dallas Escobedo (St. Mary’s H.S.), Talor Haro (Highland H.S.), Mackenzie Popescue (Chaparral H.S.), Sam Parlich (Basha H.S.), Katelyn Boyd (Horizon H.S.), Annie Lockwood (Paradise Valley H.S.)

By Robert T. Balint

When the Arizona State softball team opens the Women’s College World Series this Thursday at 4 p.m. against the University of Oklahoma, it will have something that none of the seven other teams in the tournament have — 14 of its 25 players are from 12 local high schools.

“Most of us are from Arizona, we’ve all been playing with and against each other for years,” said Mackenzie Popescue, one of the Sun Devil’s resident aces on the mound. A Chaparral grad who captained the Firebirds as a senior for the 2009 season, Popescue has a 13-3 record with a 2.22 earned run average. She got offers from big names like Texas, Alabama and UCLA, but she decided to stay close to home. “I’m a mama’s girl,” she said. “I always wanted to stay in state.”

Dallas Escobedo, a freshman phenom with a 32-3 season record, lives a half-hour away from campus and wouldn’t have it any other way. “I didn’t want to leave home, the hurler said. What’s more, “My family and friends come and watch whenever they want.” The two pitchers know each other well, having dueled many times, with almost every game going into extra innings.

Katelyn Boyd, a junior from Phoenix Horizon High and a top three finalist for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award, lives at home and has connections with more than a few of her teammates from before Arizona State. “Talor [Haro]’s been my best friend since I was 14, and I’ve known Annie [Lockwood] growing up in high school, and I played with and against Dallas,” Boyd said.

Last Thursday, Boyd, Escobedo and Popescue took some time off from preparing for their Super Regional games against Texas A&M, which they later won 3-2 and 4-2, to sit down to talk about their transition from their high school teams to playing for Arizona State, and give some advice on those who would follow in their footsteps.

Tips for Ballplayers

  • College programs offer sports camps for high school athletes, which are a great way to get recognized. “I went to a bunch of Arizona State camps,” Popescue said. “I got to meet the coaches and the girls, and I fell in love with them.” As college coaches are not allowed to approach high school athletes unless the athletes visit the college campus, camps provide an opportunity to get a feel for the program. “You get to sit down and talk to the coaches,” Popescue said, “and get to know them, how they coach and how they deal with their players.”
  • Rise to the challenge. Boyd attended Horizon High School, but also played club ball, which is where she got noticed.  “How we worked on our club team—conditioning was hard—the goal was to get us set for college,” Boyd said. The increased intensity that her club team brought made the transition from high school to college ball easier. Also, Boyd suggests that girls play at the highest level that their skills can allow, no matter the age group. I feel like if girls can play up—if you’re good enough at 14 to play at 18 level, do it,” the shortstop says. “You can only get better by beating better players, tougher competition.”
  • Hit the books.  Escobedo attended St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix, and that helped prepare her for college life. “St. Mary’s has strong academics—our classes were tough,” Escobedo said. The life of a college athlete is a harried one—classes, practice, homework, team meetings, etc. take up large chunks of time. Rising softball players have to know how to keep everything in balance. “It was private school so that prepared me, and made me more responsible,” Escobedo said. “That made me grow up quicker.”

Advice to Parents

  • Push your daughter, but not too much. “There were times I wanted to give up, and take it easy,” Popescue said about her days playing ball before ASU. “To get to this level, you can’t.” The desire has to come from the athlete. “You can’t make your daughter work hard,” Boyd said, “It has to just come around.” Says Popescue: “It comes down to hard work and pushing your kid. I mean, not to the point that they’re going to hate softball, but to the point that you’re working hard.”
  • Be engaged. “My dad always made sure that I got enough rest and sleep, and that I ate right,” Escobedo said. Richard Escobedo would go over with his daughter her performances on the mound and at the plate, and prescribed advice and extra pitching in the backyard. “He pushed me so much that I hated it, but I’m thankful because I wouldn’t be here [without it],” Escobedo said. Her mom, Jodi Gosch, played the “good cop,” talking Dallas through bad practices and games, always ready with a shoulder on which to cry. “She would be on my side, she’s happy for me all the time,” Escobedo said.
  • Find the right program. Boyd described her “checklist,” a list of what she was looking for in a college team. For her, ASU fit the bill—close to home, nice weather, etc. Aspiring players should make checklists of their own, so that they know what they’re looking for in a team. Find “the right coach, the right program,” Boyd said, and that fit depends on the individual.

Postscript — On June 2, Katelyn Boyd and Dallas Escobedo, along with their ASU teammate Kaylyn Castillo, were named first team All-Americans by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.  Another local girl named to the first team All-American team was Ashley Hansen, a junior shortstop at Stanford University.  Hansen is a graduate of Corona del Sol High School in Tempe.

Postscript II — On June 7, ASU won the Women’s College World Series by defeating the University of Florida 7-2.  Dallas Ecobedo was named the Most Outstanding Player of the World Series along with Florida’s Michelle Moultrie.

The rewards of hard work

The Arizona high school football season comes to an end on Monday night with the 5A I and II championships at University of Phoenix Stadium.  For all the boys (and their families), it is the conclusion of a season that started with spring ball practices in early May and passing league games in June.  As a reminder of the hard work these guys have put in over many months, here is Robert Balint’s two-minute video of  last June’s “Big Man” competition at Arizona State University, which pitted lineman from schools around the Valley against each other in tests of speed, strength and agility.

As for Monday’s championship games, Chandler Hamilton and Mesa Desert Ridge play for the 5A I title at 4 p.m. and Scottsdale Chaparral and Peoria Centennial will vie for the 5A II crown at 8 p.m.  Good luck to all of them.  For the underclassmen, the first spring ball practice for the 2011 season is less than five months away.

Do you know a comeback kid?

Now a Xavier College Preparatory High School graduate, 2010 Fan Fave winner Tayler Renshaw returned to her alma mater to present a $1,000 check on behalf of PCH Sports Medicine for Young Athletes to make the inaugural donation for the $1.5 million new sports field.

Do you know a young athlete who was forced to sit on the sidelines because of an injury, illness, or physical limitation? Someone who had to go to physical therapy or treatment while teammates were competing and having fun?

The PCH Sports Medicine Program Comeback Student Athlete of the Year Awards Program is a chance to reward that hard work and dedication to get back in the game.

Nominations are being sought for the 2nd annual Comeback Student Athlete of the Year Awards Program, which recognizes outstanding young athletes who have returned to athletic competition after receiving treatment for an injury, illness, or physical limitation.

Throughout the school year, contest nominees will have the chance of being chosen as the PCH Sports Medicine Comeback Student Athlete of the Week and highlighted on KPNX Channel 12’s Friday Night Fever or 12News Saturday Today. In April 2011, a panel of judges will choose the PCH Sports Medicine Comeback Student Athlete of the Year. An award will also be given for the “Fan Fave” who is selected by online votes. Both winners will be awarded scholarship money to be presented at an end-of-the-year banquet. The winners’ athletic programs will receive cash grants.

Nominations are open to Arizona residents between the ages of 8 and 18 who are currently enrolled in Arizona public, private, charter or home elementary or high schools. Nominees must have participated in organized sports (school, club  or intramurals) and missed part of a season due to injury, illness or physical limitations. You do not have to be a PCH patient to be eligible for the awards program.

Last year, PCH Sports Medicine received more than 100 nominations. From those, 28 comeback student athletes were featured on 12News as weekly winners. Two of those athletes, Brett Butler and Tayler Renshaw, were selected as the PCH Sports Medicine Comeback Student Athlete of the Year and Fan Fave Comeback Student Athlete, respectively.

Brett, who graduated from Corona del Sol High School last June, was diagnosed at the PCH Children’s Neuroscience Institute with a brain tumor that caused debilitating seizures. He underwent surgery to remove the growth, but the procedure resulted in paralysis to the right side of his body. He battled a long road to recovery, but eventually returned to Coronal del Sol’s cross country and varsity baseball teams.

Currently a freshman at Arizona State University, Brett was selected as the Comeback Student Athlete of the Year by a panel of judges.

In August 2008, Tayler began feeling ill and over time her health deteriorated to the point where she could barely run or jump. In February of 2009, her sickness was diagnosed by a team of specialists in the Division of Gastroenterology at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Tayler found out she has Crohn’s disease.

In order to treat her illness and regain her strength, Tayler had to stop playing soccer for two months and now receives regular infusions every six weeks. Tayler worked extremely hard to get back into top playing condition during the summer before the start of her senior year at Xavier College Preparatory.

Tayler, now a freshman at Occidental College in Los Angeles, was selected by a public online vote as the Fan Fave Comeback Student Athlete. Over the 19 days of voting, close to 34,000 Fan Fave votes were collected.

Nominations will be accepted through February 27, 2011. To nominate someone you know, visit comebackathlete.azcentral.com.