#7 Arizona State Softball 2014 Preview

Arizona State Sun Devils

Overall Rank: #7
Conference Rank: #2 Pac-12
#7 Arizona State Softball 2014 Preview
Arizona State Team Page


The Sun Devils are coming off of their third consecutive Women's College World Series, but will have one main change from last year's team...a new coach. Clint Myers left to take the head coaching job at Auburn and Arizona State welcomes Craig Nicholson, who had been the Ball State coach for the past seven seasons. While there, he compiled a 241-162 record, while winning nearly 70 percent of his conference games. His teams were MAC champions three times. Luckily for Nicholson, he inherits a team mixed with upperclassmen (11) and underclassmen (13), so his transition may not be too hard.

2013: 50-12, 16-8
2013 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Craig Nicholson

Field Players:
Arizona State was an offensive dynamo last year and it doesn't look like that will change. Five players hit double digit home runs and four of those five return, led by Cheyenne Coyle (20) and Amber Freeman (18). The Sun Devils also had six players with 30 or more RBI, led by Freeman (61) and Coyle.  As much as ASU hit the ball out of the yard (95 home runs), it also drove the ball into the gap, as witnessed by its 97 doubles. Haley Steele, who also had 12 home runs, led the team in that category with 14. Alix Johnson, who hit 11 balls out of the yard, stole 16-of-17 bases.  

The Sun Devils have one of the best pitchers in the country in Dallas Escobedo. Her counterpart in the circle, Mackenzie Popescue isn't so bad herself. Escobedo had a 30-6 record last season, while Popescue sported a 19-6 mark. Escobedo struck out 325 batters in 2013.

Who to Watch:
Nicholson and the whole team.  How will the new coach handle coming over to one of the most successful programs in arguably the toughest conference? He had success in the MAC and his teams hit for power, so this squad seems like a perfect fit. What else to watch is how the team responds to Nicholson. Will it be just another season or will it take some time to get adjusted? The majority of the key players are experienced, so it seems like it shouldn't be a problem.

Final Projection:
Arizona State will be crazy good at the plate yet again. With the majority of the power returning, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the team approach 95 home runs and 97 doubles again. Both Popescue and Escobedo are seniors, so the circle will be solid again. Last season, the first three innings were key for the Sun Devils, as they outscored their opponents 222-59 in the first three frames. If they can get out to fast starts again, it'll be hard to see many teams defeating ASU. As per usual, ASU set up a tough nonconference schedule, one that includes matchups against North Carolina State, Oklahoma, Ball State, Minnesota, Michigan, Texas and Nebraska.  

Projected Postseason: NCAA Softball Tournament

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Haley Steele, 3B, 185
Hits: Amber Freeman, C, 66
Home Runs: Cheyenne Coyle, SS, 20
RBIs: Cheyenne Coyle, SS, 66
Runs: Cheyenne Coyle, SS, 67
Stolen Bases: Alix Johnson, OF, 16

Wins: Dallas Escobedo, P, 30
Innings Pitched: Dallas Escobedo, P, 250.2
Strikeouts: Dallas Escobedo, P, 325
Saves: Mackenzie Popescue, P, 3

Madness 2014 NPF Draft Rankings:
#4 Cheyenne Coyle
#17 Alix Johnson


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