Tag Archives: softball

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.

MLB Pitch, Hit & Run Contest this weekend

2010 PHR finalists. Photo courtesy of Major League Baseball.

Paladin Sports Outreach will  host the Aquafina Major League Baseball Pitch, Hit & Run local competition this Saturday, April 9.

The free skills competition is open to boys and girls ages 7 to 14. The top competitors have a chance to advance to compete in the PHR National Finals, which will take place at the 2011 MLB All-Star Game at Chase Field in Phoenix.

The competition will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. at JO Combs Traditional Academy, 37327 N. Gantzel Rd. in San Tan Valley.

All participants must bring a copy of their birth certificate and fill out a registration/waiver form, in-person, prior to participating in the competition.

Girls and boys will compete and be awarded in separate divisions. Girls compete in a softball division and boys will compete in a baseball division. Any method of underhand/overhand pitching or throwing is allowed.

Your child’s age as of July 17th of this year determines his or her age in this year’s competition.

Paladin Sports Outreach is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, established to bring sports and recreation programs to undeserved communities in the San Tan Area and beyond.

For more information call 480-285-9459 or email info@paladinsports.org.

Xavier sophomore is named Gatorade Arizona Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year

Sarah "takes off for the lead and doesn't look back."

Xavier College Preparatory sophomore Sarah Fakler has been named the 2010-11 Gatorade Arizona Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year. The award, made possible by Gatorade in partnership with ESPN RISE Magazine, distinguishes Sarah as Arizona’s best high school girls cross country runner.

“She is an exceptionally talented athlete, but also dedicated to academics and serving her community,” says Sister Lynn Winsor, BVM, CMAA, Xavier’s vice principal for activities and athletics.

In addition to her cross country achievements, Sarah has maintained a 4.0 GPA, is an active member in her church community and has participated in the Xavier Xero Club, promoting environmental sustainability.

Sarah led the Xavier Gators to the team title in the Class 5A Division 1 state championship this past season with a time of 18:26.97. She captured individual titles at the Desert Twilight Cross Country Festival, the Sole Sports Running Zone Cross Country Festival and the George Young Invitational. She finished third at the Nike Cross Nationals Southwest Regional Championships with a time of 17:49:39.

Sarah with her award.

“Sarah gets in this hypnotic state when the gun goes off. Basically, she takes off for the lead and doesn’t look back,” says Xavier Head Coach Dave Van Sickle. “Usually, she comes home with the win.”

The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field. RISE partners with top sport-specific experts and a media advisory board of accomplished, veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport.

Ann Meyers Drysdale to receive YWCA honor

Phoenix Mercury President and General Manager Ann Meyers Drysdale has been named the YWCA’s Sports Leader of the Year. The honor will be presented at the 18th Annual Tribute to Women luncheon tomorrow at the Arizona Biltmore.

Meyers Drysdale and two of her three children, DJ and Drew, appeared in a July 2009 cover story by multimedia journalist Vicki Louk Balint, who also recorded a podcast from her interview. Publisher & Editor Karen Barr wrote about the cover shoot, which took place in the Mercury locker room, in her blog, Behind the ‘Zine.

And thanks to help from audio/video production colleague Rob Turchick of yipDog Studios, we also posted a video featuring part of the interview.

Meyers Drysdale is entering her fifth season with the two-time WNBA Champion Phoenix Mercury (2009, 2007). Enshrined into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. as a player in 1993, Meyers Drysdale’s basketball resume spans over four decades beginning with becoming the first high school player ever to make a United States National Team in 1974.

As an amateur, Meyers Drysdale was the first woman to receive a full athletic scholarship from UCLA. The Bruins basketball legend was a four-time Kodak All-American, the first male or female to achieve that honor, and was the first female to be named to the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

In 1976, she represented the United States in the Olympics, where she earned a silver medal as part of the first women’s US Olympic Basketball team.

Meyers Drysdale remains the only female ever to sign a free-agent contract with an NBA team when she signed with the Indiana Pacers in 1979. After being released by the Pacers, she provided color commentary for Pacers broadcasts and was the first woman to broadcast an NBA game.

In addition to her career on the court, Meyers Drysdale has established herself as an expert analyst on ESPN, NBC, ABC, FOX Sports and CBS and has done commentary for men’s and women’s basketball, softball, tennis, volleyball and baseball since 1979.

Meyers Drysdale, along with 10 other honorees, will be recognized at the event for accomplishments in their respective careers. For a full list of the honorees, visit ywcaaz.org.

High school softball at its finest

Xavier pitcher Tess Casey.

Xavier pitcher Tess Casey.

If you have a daughter who plays (or interested in playing) softball, take her out to the Rose Mofford Sports Complex, 9833 N. 25th Ave, in Phoenix tonight, Friday night or Saturday night to watch the Arizona high school championships.

I spent three hours last night watching a semifinal double header between Red Mountain, the number-one seeded team in the 5A-1 tournament, and this year’s Cinderella team, Xavier, which had advanced to the semifinals despite being the 16th, and lowest, seeded team in the tournament.  Xavier had advanced to the semifinals after a dramatic come-from-behind win last Saturday against Buena High School.

Red Mountain’s pitcher, Amelia Willadsen, did not allow Xavier to stage any further last-minute drama last night.  Willadsen was the dominant player on the field, throwing two complete games to beat Xavier 6-1 and 4-2.  Xavier did not go down without a fight, however.  They took a 2-1 lead into the 5th inning of the second game before Red Mountain answered with 3 runs in the bottom of that inning.

Tonight will feature three games at 6:30 p.m. — a Division 4A-1 semifinal game between Chaparral and Canyon del Oro and both 4A-2 semifinal games (Seton Catholic vs. Perry and Mingus vs. Greenway). Friday night will be the 4A-2 title game at 5:30 p.m. and 5A-1 championship game between Basha and Red Mountain High Schools at 8 p.m. Saturday will feature the title game in 4A-1 at 6 p.m. and 5A-2 championship game between Deer Valley and Sunrise Mountain at 8 p.m.

For the $5 admission fee, you will be treated not only to the best softball in the state, but also to a lot of enthusiasm among the players and the crowds.  You will find that it is time and money well spent.