A coincidental journey for ASU softball players - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

A coincidental journey for ASU softball players

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Posted: Thursday, May 26, 2011 5:00 pm | Updated: 4:02 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

No conspiracy or collusion here. There weren't even a handful's worth of conversation about colleges of choice.

So even though Arizona women make up 55 percent of this year's Arizona State softball roster (13 of 25), and 11 of those 13 played high school softball within 20 miles of campus, they say almost all of it is that other "C-word":

Coincidence.

The contributions made by most of that group this season, however, coincide with the Sun Devils hosting this week's best-of-three Super Regional against Texas A&M for a return trip to the College World Series.

National Player of the Year finalist Katelyn Boyd (Horizon) and Annie Lockwood (Paradise Valley) lead the roster's mass influx of East Valley talent, but the uber-talented younguns have, in their own ways, followed.

Despite dealing with the rigors of college softball, freshman pitcher Dallas Escobedo (St. Mary's) has been nearly as dominant now (relatively speaking) as high school. Mackenzie Popescue (Chaparral) has been a solid second pitcher along with veteran Hillary Bach. Sam Parlich (Basha) has locked down the second base position. Talor Haro (Highland) has evolved into a slap-hitting starter, and the likes of Lacy Goodman (Red Mountain) and Mary Spiel (Corona del Sol) have made immediate contributions at various points this season.

Many of these players have played with and against each other through high school or club ball since they were barely teenagers.

"To all end up here together is pretty crazy, but awesome at the same time," Haro said before the start of Thursday's Super Regional series. "It's unreal how it's worked out."

Those who've been around the program the past several years believe this year's Sun Devils have a little more raw talent than the 2008 national championship squad, albeit less postseason experience.

The '08 group had eight kids from the East Valley, but only locals Caylyn Carlson and Jessica Mapes saw consistent playing time.

Since then, however, better local high school talent caught up to ASU coach Clint Myers' ability to resurrect a downtrodden program.

"We really didn't talk about college that much," Parlich said. "It was our own separate choices."

Escobedo's father, Rich, had long been an ASU sports follower, so she'd been to several ASU games. She wanted to stay "home," knew Kenzie Fowler would do most of the pitching at the University of Arizona and knew the Sun Devils were going to win. Escobedo always played up an age level or two in club softball, so she faced current teammates Parlich, Goodman and even the California-native Mandy Urfer who's three years older.

"Sometimes when we were younger we'd all joke about playing at the same school, about being a powerhouse in Tempe," Escobedo said. "It was funny at the time, but didn't happen much. Now it's funny remembering that and what happened since."

Haro also came to some ASU games as a kid, and though she always wanted to play college softball, she was pretty tepid about Tempe in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when Arizona and UCLA were the regional and national powerhouses that Arizona's elite high school players sought.

Even a couple veterans from this side of town expressed apathy toward ASU as teenagers.

"ASU was never a name," Haro said.

Boyd was an immediate success her freshman season, but the junior Lockwood was on the verge of quitting the program twice in her first two years. Instead she turned herself into a solid defender and middle-of-the-order slugger in 2011.

They all credited their interest in sticking around town with Myers turning the program around these past six years, and believe this core collection is the first of future local studs to gather en masse.

"It's nice to see a majority of Arizona girls representing the state. The kind of competition here is pretty much as good as California," Parlich said. "The program got better and better and more girls wanted to come here. We used to be last in the Pac-10, now we're winning the Pac-10."

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