(Photo: Nicholas Badders/WCSN)
With their loss to the University of Washington Huskies on Sunday afternoon, Arizona State Baseball’s streak of 54 consecutive seasons with at least 30 wins came to an end. The 4-0 score put Arizona State’s season record at 22-26, guaranteeing that with seven games left in 2017, the team would not reach the 30-win plateau for a nation-best 55th-straight season.
Fresh off a huge 14-13 non-conference upset over the University of Arizona, the Sun Devils traveled North to face a Huskies team that had just been swept by the same U of A team that ASU had recently toppled.
After averaging only 5.3 runs per game through their first 45 games coming into the Pacific Northwest, the Sun Devils of Arizona State struggled offensively in Seattle, as they only managed to score eight runs in the weekend effort, with all of them coming on Saturday afternoon. A duo of power arms hailing from the Bay Area would prove to be too much for ASU to handle, leading to two shutouts over the three days.
The Devils’ first game in Washington would prove to be a rough one, as Sun Devil hitters were opposed by 6’5″ junior Noah Bremer. Bremer, from Berkeley, California, kept ASU off base all game long, retiring the first 10 batters he saw and 27 of the 29 he faced.
Andrew Snow singled in the fourth inning and Zach Cerbo walked in the eight, but those were the only two base runners allowed by the righty, who pitched a complete-game shut out on 115 pitches.
Eli Lingos struggled early on, allowing three first-inning runs, but settled down nicely after that, allowing just two walks and two hits for one run over his final four innings of work. Two pitchers who haven’t seen much time on the mound this season in James Ryan and Grant Schneider were given opportunities to pitch on Friday, as the two relieved Erives and combined for three innings of shutout baseball.
With the bullpen keeping ASU in the game on Friday, Tracy Smith gave the starting nod on Saturday to one of the season’s more reliable bullpen arms in righty Connor Higgins. In his last outing, Higgins threw 7 and 2/3 innings of two-run relief to, allowing ASU to knock off a ranked Stanford last Sunday afternoon.
Despite hoping for more of the same, Higgins struggled in a short outing, allowing three runs on six hits over 3 and 2/3 innings. With the game tied at three, the ball was handed over to Ryan Hingst who would go on to finish the game on the mound for the Sun Devils, allowing just two runs.
In one of the season’s more back-and-forth games, ASU took a 3-2 lead in the fourth inning, regained it in the fifth after the Huskies tied the score in their half of the fourth, then took the lead for good in the seventh, scoring two runs to make it 6-4.
All nine hitters in the starting lineup recorded hits for the Sun Devils, with four different players notching two. Hunter Bishop went 2-4 with a triple and two RBIs and Snow had a 2-4 day with two runs driven in as well.
The offensive start of Saturday’s win, however, was sophomore Jeremy McCuin. McCuin had a career day, going 3-4 with two doubles, two runs scored and a run batted in.
After the offensive outpouring on Saturday, ASU tried to keep things rolling on Sunday, but were met by Washington’s Joe DeMers, a Sophomore out of Martinez, California. A 6’1″, 231 pound righty, Demers allowed two hits to lead off the game, but quickly settled down, retiring his next 11 batters.
While the Sun Devil offense was looking to find their groove, starting pitcher Spencer Van Scoyoc could not make it out of the second inning in Seattle, as the lefty allowed a hit, a walk and hit two batters before being relieved by Eder Erives. Of the three runs allowed by Van Scoyoc in the second inning, only one of them was earned as the result of an error from Carter Aldrete.
With the bullpen being strong in the first two games, Erives continued the trend as the senior went on to pitch through the end of the seventh inning, allowing just three hits and one run, while striking out six. In his final four innings, Erives allowed just one hit and no runs.
Despite a solid performance from the righty, the bats of the Sun Devil lineup struggled to cash in all game long against DeMers. Hit were not lacking, as ASU had nine on the afternoon. Despite doubles from Myles Denson and Bishop, the Devils could not get the big hit needed to get them on the board, leading to the team’s fifth offensive shutout of the season. This game also marked the second time ASU had been shut out twice in one series, with the other time coming against Oregon State in March.
Starting pitching and early runs proved to be the biggest struggle over the weekend for the Sun Devils, as Lingos, Higgins and Van Scoyoc combined to pitch just 10 of the staff’s 24 innings on the weekend. Those three starters allowing 10 of the 13 runs that were given up over the course of the weekend. The Sun Devil offense has struggled to climb back from early deficits all season long and those struggles continued in Seattle.
The combination of starting pitching struggles and a lack of timely hitting propelled ASU to their third straight series loss and ninth of the season, while in the process making it official that the team would not win 30 games for the first time since 1962.
With the hopes of 30 wins gone, the team’s next milestone to reach is that of .500, something that they must go 5-2 in order to accomplish.
For now, the Sun Devils stay in Seattle as Tuesday night, they play the University of Seattle Redhawks, before returning home for the season’s final homestand, a 3-game series with rival Arizona. After that, the Devils will conclude the season in Salt Lake City with three games against the Utah Utes.
Nick Badders is a baseball beat writer for the Walter Cronkite Sports Network. You can follow him on Twitter @BadderUpSports.