TEMPE - In 2011, freshman Dallas Escobedo recorded three victories - including two shutouts - in regional play before winning two more in the super regional and five in a row in the Women's College World Series to lead Arizona State to a national championship.
This season as a junior, Escobedo again picked up all three wins - including two shutouts - in a regional and again looked much like a pitcher capable of carrying her team to a title.
The parallels were all too apparent, even to the person in the middle of the action.
"It felt like my freshman year," Escobedo said of her regional performance last weekend, which included the first postseason no-hitter in ASU history against San Jose State as well as two shutouts against one of the nation's more potent offenses in Georgia.
"I felt confident, and they weren't hitting me. I just felt great because of how I was pitching and how the team was doing. It was great all around."
Escobedo broke onto the college scene two years ago after a stellar high school career at Phoenix St. Mary's. She turned in another solid season in 2012 but regressed slightly as ASU was eliminated in the semifinals of the Women's College World Series.
This year, she again had some ups and downs before finding her groove in the final regular-season series against Oregon and parlaying that into a dominant regional showing.
Over her past 27 innings, Escobedo (28-4) has allowed no earned runs and four hits, striking out 30. She credits extra time spent with pitching coach Chuck D'Arcy for getting back to the results she knew she was capable of producing.
"I was confused all season because I felt like I was a better pitcher," Escobedo said. "I just didn't have the right mentality. We changed up some stuff, we worked harder, and I was able to figure out why I was confused. And that gave me confidence."
Her swagger having returned and No. 5 ASU (48-10) now just two wins from another trip to Oklahoma City, Escobedo sets her sights on No. 12 Kentucky (41-19), the Sun Devils' super-regional opponent and a team she beat 8-1 on Feb. 9.
Escobedo will get the ball for the super-regional opener at 7 p.m. Saturday at Farrington Stadium.
Coach Clint Myers wouldn't divulge his plans beyond that, and junior Mackenzie Popescue (19-6) will be ready should Escobedo struggle or a favorable matchup present itself, but Escobedo has proven she can handle the workload. Even Myers admitted it will be difficult to keep her out of the circle during her current stretch.
"She's pitching very well, and she wants the ball," Myers said. "As long as that continues, I would say that you're going to see her a lot."
• What: Super Regional, Kentucky at Arizona St., best-of-three series
• Where: Farrington Stadium, Tempe
• Schedule: Today at 7 p.m. on ESPN2; Sunday at 2 p.m. on ESPN; Sunday at 5 p.m. on ESPN2 (if necessary)