Tag Archives: Dallas Escobedo

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.

Should St. Mary’s continue to compete in the 5A conference?

Should a high school team compete against other high schools three to five times its size?

St. Mary’s High School thinks so, but I have mixed feelings about it.

Last week, Rose Vargas, athletic director at St. Mary’s athletic, sent a press release to the local media making the case that St. Mary’s should remain in the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s 5A Conference, where the largest high schools in Arizona — those with at least 2,000 students — reside. Every two years, the AIA realigns its conferences to account for enrollment changes in schools throughout the state. On Oct. 18, the AIA will announce its conferences for the Fall 2011 through Spring 2013 school years.

“At this date, Saint Mary’s enrollment is 603 students,” Vargas said in her press release. “The average enrollment at other 5A schools is 2,400+. Despite the enrollment disproportion, Saint Mary’s has a long history of success competing at the highest level. The goal and intention of Saint Mary’s High School Athletics is to remain at the Division 5A level.”

In the past two years, St. Mary’s enrollment has decreased by 22 percent. In October 2008, it reported an enrollment of 778 students and successfully petitioned to stay in the 5A conference. It was placed in the Desert Valley region with five other schools, all of which have at least three times as many students.

Based on numbers alone, St. Mary’s should not be in the 5A conference, or even the 4A conference. It should be in the 3A conference with schools like Payson, Fountain Hills, Safford, Holbrook, Wickenburg and Lakeside Blue Ridge — all of which are bigger than St. Mary’s.

St. Mary’s has a long and proud athletic tradition.  Its football team has won 67 percent of its games since 1938 and has won nine state championships. But its last football state championship was 15 years ago and the last time it made the playoffs was in 2006.

Vargas noted the school’s recent success in girls softball and boys and girls basketball, which have won multiple region and state championships since 2005. But those are sports where numbers are not as crucial and a few superb athletes can carry a team.

St. Mary’s has been blessed with many such athletes over the years, such as current NBA players Channing Frye and Jerryd Bayless and current ASU softball pitcher Dallas Escobedo, who during her St. Mary’s career from 2007-2010 was simply unhittable and last year alone struck out 500 batters in 36 games. As for the girls basketball team, there has been recent controversy over the fact that the coach and seven players from last year’s team came from the same club team.

Are numbers the most important factor in athletic success? Of course not. Skill, coaching, character and heart are far more important. After all,  300 Spartans held off up to 300,000 Persians for three days at the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C.

But, numbers eventually catch up with you, as the Spartans found out on the fourth day of the battle.

There are some sports where numbers matter a great deal and football is one of them. This year’s St. Mary’s team is currently is 2-4, including an inspiring upset over longtime rival Brophy, which has more than four times as many boys as St. Mary’s. But the problem is that St. Mary’s had lost to Brophy the previous seven years in a row and in 9 of the last 10 years.

Tradition and history are important, but is it really fair to current St. Mary’s students to ask them to compete against schools three to five times their size?

St. Mary’s thinks so. If you agree, the school may need your help later this month when St. Mary’s expects to appeal its probable reclassification to the 4A Conference, where it would compete with schools only twice its size.

“The appeal process is nothing new for Saint Mary’s,” Vargas wrote. “Throughout the history of Saint Mary’s Athletics, the school has successfully appealed to remain in Division 5A every two years.”

I admire St. Mary’s grit and determination, and perhaps it would make sense for it to compete in 5A in some sports, just as colleges like Georgetown and Johns Hopkins play in Division I in some sports and Division III in other sports. But at some point, the math is inexorable and there is an undeniable strength in numbers. More importantly, the lessons taught to students in high school sports are the same in smaller conferences. The St. Mary’s teams of 20, 30 and 40 years ago did not have to compete against schools at least three times their size and there is no good reason to continue to ask that of current St. Mary’s students, who deserve the chance to create their own history and tradition. — Dan Barr