The 2015 class of Arizona State softball seniors opened their careers with consecutive trips to the Women’s College World Series and arrived in Tempe the year following the 2011 national title. As freshmen they went 52-9 and 2-2 in the WCWS, falling to Oklahoma in the semifinals, in 2013 they were 0-2 in Oklahoma City after a 50-12 season, and as juniors they suffered a heartbreaking loss to Michigan in the NCAA Regionals at Farrington Stadium. The group of Amber Freeman, Elizabeth Caporuscio, Haley Steele, Bethany Kemp, and Sierra Rodriguez was honored following Saturday’s thrilling regular season-ending 11-10 walk-off win over UCLA, the night before the NCAA Selection Committee will decide which of 16 Regional sites they will compete in next week. Displaying the character they have showed throughout their careers, the Sun Devils erased a 9-1 Bruin lead, and Jennifer Soria connected on a two-out three-run home run in the seventh to add another treasure to the chest of memories the tandem has already collected.
Steele started all but two games at third base for ASU during her career, with a consistent .323 career average and between 11 and 13 home runs per season. Her RBI total this season is a personal best, and she has climbed from Pacific-12 all freshman to honorable mention to second team in her first three campaigns.
“I wouldn’t change one thing,” Steele said. “I came in with some great coaches and great teammates. We had a lot of fun, we’re not only athletes, we’re students, so this really gave me the initiative to go after my education, and it’s paying off right now. This isn’t just softball, this is life, getting me prepared for success, I owe ASU a lot. Next year, I will stick around and grad assist, and I’ll be getting my master’s degree in sustainability.
“To have this group of girls be in my senior class is a great way to walk off Farrington.”
Freeman is enjoying the best hitting season of her illustrious career at .438, mostly as the designated player. As a freshman, her .500 average led the NCAA Tournament and put her on the WCWS All-Tournament team, and during her sophomore season, she hit 18 home runs with 61 RBIs en route to being named Pac-12 Player of the Year.
“It’s been amazing,” Freeman said. “It’s been the best four years of my life. It went too fast, and I get teary eyed because I don’t want it to be over, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Caporuscio came into the program being named second-team All-Pac-12 as a freshman with 16 home runs, 51 RBIs and a .324 batting average. This season, the leftfielder hit .293.
“I’m just grateful to be here, with this group of seniors and other girls,” Caporuscio said. “It’s been so much fun, I have no regrets, we’re going to have so many memories.”
The first baseman from Santa Clarita, Calif., has career highs of 14 home runs and 38 RBIs to accommodate a .307 average, and her walk-off grand slam defeated Oklahoma Feb. 15. She was Pac-12 honorable mention in 2013, her best hitting season of .331.
“I definitely would say we’ve had our ups and downs,” Kemp said, “but I think we’ve had some amazing memories, some amazing games, and I think all that is something we’ll keep with us forever.”
Rodriguez arrived with the Sun Devils on a different path than the others. The product who won two state championships at Basha High School in Chandler went on to lead Yavapai College to the 2011 NJCAA national title and Phoenix College to the NJCAA finals in 2013, while batting .533. She saw only 19 at-bats in her first season with ASU in 2014, but this spring has started every game as right fielder and leadoff hitter, reaching base safely 50 percent of the time and has batted .331.
“It was an awesome feeling coming from juco to here, and it’s cool to wear a Sun Devils uniform just for two years, it’s the best feeling ever,” Rodriguez said.
ASU COACH CRAIG NICHOLSON ON HIS SENIORS
“We’re losing a great group of kids first and foremost, they’re going to be hard to replace. A lot of different personalities and really good leaders, they really put this group on their back this year.”
UCLA COACH KELLY INOUYE-PEREZ ON THE ASU SENIORS
“I truly believe the best softball players in the country are in the Pac-12, and some of the seniors we’ve been able to face for the past four years, and I’d be lying to say I’m not excited to see them go, but their careers have been outstanding. They’ve done great things for the university, and they’ll be missed.”