(Photo: Dominic Cotroneo/WCSN)
Jordan Aboites had a stellar start to his night against USC, giving up three runs, striking out seven and walking two in 7 2/3 innings. Unfortunately for Aboites, his night didn’t end there.
Instead, Aboites gave up three more runs, never getting to record that last out in the top of the eighth and No. 22 Arizona State fell to USC 6-2, ending its chance at sharing the Pac-12 crown.
“That’s the ironic piece for me. I thought [Aboites] was as sharp as he’s been in awhile tonight,” ASU manager Tracy Smith said after the game. “To sit there and to see that he has six earned runs is sickening.”
ASU had a nice start to the game, scoring two runs in the first two innings. USC went without a baserunner until the fourth, but after giving up a sac-fly run in the fourth and a two-run homer in the fifth, ASU never regained the lead.
Sophomore Andrew Shaps started off the scoring in the bottom of the first, doubling in junior David Greer to give ASU the 1-0 lead over the Trojans. ASU tacked on one more in the second when Greer scored once again, this time thanks to a sac fly by junior Brian Serven.
The Trojans cut the lead in half in the fourth inning when junior Corey Dempster scored on a sac fly by senior Timmy Robinson. They then took the lead from the Sun Devils in the fifth, with Lars Nootbaar hitting a two-run homer to right field.
USC pitcher Mitch Hart settled down after giving up two early runs, pitching six innings and striking out five, securing the win even without the late support USC added on in the eighth.
Heading into the eighth inning, Aboites was at 78 pitches, three earned runs and was coming off of two shutout innings. Leaving the eighth, Aboites had 104 pitches and six earned runs and the Trojans had a lead that proved to be insurmountable.
With two outs and runners on first and second, Robinson singled in sophomore Angelo Armenta to bring the lead to 4-2, still within reach for the Sun Devils.
“I think that’s even a different baseball game,” Smith said. “In a two-run game, the pitches are different.”
What caused the two-run difference to turn into a four-run difference was a miscommunication in the outfield between center fielder Shaps and right fielder Gage Canning. Junior Jeremy Martinez hit a ball to right-center that fell in between Shaps and Canning, and neither were in position to make a play on the ball. This ended up being a triple for Martinez with two runners scoring, bringing the lead to 6-2.
“Andrew should not have been there. Gage was clearly there, it was just a mistake on his part,” Smith said. “It just can’t happen.”
The Sun Devils were able to get two batters on in the bottom of the eighth, but weren’t able to capitalize on the opportunity.
Greer went 1-for-1 on the night and drew a whopping four walks, getting on base every time he was at the plate. He was a lone bright spot in a stagnant offense on the night for ASU.
The Sun Devils will take on the Trojans in the rubber match Sunday afternoon with first pitch set to take place at 2 p.m. at Phoenix Municipal.