Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 5/26/12
TEMPE, Ariz. -- A year ago, the Arizona State softball team took a straight and narrow road to the Women's College World Series with a flawless 10-0 run. This year, the road has been a little bumpier and a little more winding, but the destination the same. The No. 3 seed Sun Devils earned a trip back to the WCWS in Oklahoma City on Friday night by winning back-to-back Super Regional games against No. 14 seed Louisiana-Lafayette. It was the second week in a row the defending national champion Sun Devils (51-9) faced elimination, having lost Game 1 of the series 6-0 on Thursday night, but overcoming adversity not seen on last season's campaign has made the triumphs even sweeter. "We didn't do it the easy way," ASU coach Clint Myers said after Friday night's 9-2 and 8-0 victories. "But great teams figure out ways to win." The extra challenge that has come with escaping elimination twice now has shown the Sun Devils how they must respond in the face of adversity, making the next challenge seem less mountainous. "It's just preparing us even more for when we get to the World Series," senior first baseman Annie Lockwood said. "We're going to be playing any of seven amazing teams when we get there. Heaven forbid we do lose that first game, we have a long road to get back to that (final) series. If we can overcome that now, we're just going to be that much stronger." This trip to the Oklahoma City will be its sixth in seven seasons under Myers. ASU joined Alabama in this year's final eight Friday, with the other six spots to be decided this weekend. After managing just two hits and three base-runners on Thursday against Louisiana-Lafayette (53-6), the Sun Devils responded in dominant fashion. They never trailed in either game and belted seven home runs to overpower the Ragin' Cajuns. Sam Parlich homered twice and Lockwood once in the 9-2 victory in the first game. Parlich had just one home run on the season coming into the game. In the decisive second game, sophomore outfielder Alix Johnson put ASU up 1-0 with a solo homer just two batters into the game, and freshman third baseman Haley Steele followed up immediately with another. Johnson also hit a three-run home run in the fifth inning to finish with four RBI in the game after notching just one hit in the series' first two games. "When you're kind of struggling you tend to work harder than you need to at the plate," Johnson said. "This game I really wanted to focus on sticking to my plan, just being free and easy. Obviously, it worked out for me this game." Senior Hillary Bach was the winning pitcher in the first game, but Myers went back to sophomore ace Dallas Escobedo in the decisive game, giving here a shot at redemption after being shelled twice by the Ragin' Cajuns -- once in the regular season and again on Thursday night, when she gave up six runs and 12 hits. Escobedo (23-6) dominated from start to finish, looking like a totally different pitcher than the one battered Thursday. She allowed five hits, all singles, while striking out seven. She worked out of a bases-loaded, no-outs situation in the sixth inning with two pop outs and a strikeout. "I definitely wanted to make a different statement than I did (Thursday) night," Escobedo said. "It was just a different mentality I had, and now I know what I need to have success in the World Series." Not that Escobedo doesn't already know what it takes to succeed in Oklahoma City -- last season she won all 10 of ASU's postseason games and became the first freshman pitcher since 1990 to earn a victory in the national championship clinching game. Even ULL co-head coach Michael Lotief had to marvel at how ASU responded to a stunning loss in the series' first game. "They're going to be a worthy representative of this region, and we're certainly pulling for them," Lotief said. "The way they handled adversity, the way they answered and the way that they bounced back -- how could you not pull for people who play the game the right way?" Myers called it a shame the two teams had to meet at this stage because he believed the Ragin' Cajuns were worthy of playing in the WCWS. But more than anything Friday night Myers expressed pride at the way his players never stopped battling to keep their season alive. "We stood out there 24 hours ago and talked to them about if anything has been true all season long it's you never give in, never die, never roll over," Myers said. "As long as we've got a breath we've got a chance."
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