Top-ranked ASU found itself down to its final strike in its NCAA softball Super Regionals opener last night against Texas A&M, down 2-1 with the bases loaded.
The Aggies had managed all of two hits against the Sun Devils freshman ace pitcher Dallas Escobedo, but both were solo home runs, including one by opposing pitcher Melissa Dumezich.
But in the bottom of the seventh (the regulation length of a softball game), heavily favored ASU loaded the bases on two walks and a hit batter. Two were out, and senior catcher Kaylyn Castillo was at the plate with the game on the line.
The count on Castillo reached 2-2, possibly one pitch from defeat or victory. Rise ball over the heart of the plate. Castillo hits a sharp groundball right at A&M's shortstop, Brittany Walker.
Katelyn Boyd, ASU's runner on second, is right in front of Walker as she goes to field the ball, but the pair don't have any contact with each other. The ball reaches Walker's glove just as Boyd crosses her path, and quickly skips into the outfield.
Two Sun Devils' runs score, as the Aggies' players protest vehemently.
Final score, ASU 2, Texas A&M 2.
No one would have had much to bitch about if the umpires had called interference on the play, ending the game. We've seen interference called on plays a lot less than this one.
But look at it this way:
If Dumezich hadn't walked two and hit one in the final inning, the final play wouldn't have been an issue. And if shortstop Walker had the presence of mind to force contact with the baserunner on the grounder, the umps would have had a much easier call.
It added up to a wonderful game on a beautiful night in late May.
Fast-pitch softball is an intense sport.
The teams will go at it again at 6 tonight at Farrington Stadium in Tempe, with A&M needing to win two games back-to-back to win the Super Regional and earn one of the eight berths in the NCAA College World Series next week.
The 6 p.m. game will be televised on ESPNU. If ASU loses, the championship game will be on ESPN2, which is Channel 32 on most Valley television sets.
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