(Photo: Allyson Cummings/WCSN)
A day after blowing a five-run lead at home on opening day, the No. 18 Arizona State Sun Devils were treated to masterful pitching out of the bullpen from Eric Melbostad en route to their first victory of the season. The sophomore earned the win over the Baylor Bears after tossing four innings of one-hit baseball, allowing just one run.
Jitters from the right-handed reliever contributed to a single and a balk to begin his day in the sixth, though they subsided and he was able to retire the next 12 batters he faced to close out the game.
“You always feel nervous out there. If you stop feeling nervous I don’t know why you’re playing. I settled down and made some pitches,” Melbostad said.
Ryan Kellogg got the start for ASU and lasted five innings, giving up three earned runs along the way.
Kellogg worked through Baylor’s lineup with ease through his first three innings of work. A Darryn Sheppard home run and an Aaron Dodson single up the middle that scored Lawton Langford got the Bears on the board in the fourth. Logan Brown tacked on another solo shot in the fifth in what would be Kellogg’s last inning.
Facing the left-handed Brad Kuntz, ASU head coach Tim Esmay tinkered with his batting order yet saw similar results as the Sun Devils matched their seven-run total from yesterday this afternoon.
“I think, just as a whole, our coach just has the confidence to put anyone wherever and know they’ll get the job done,” ASU first baseman David Graybill added about the lineup changes.
The Sun Devils opened the scoring in the bottom of the second when Brian Serven singled in RJ Ybarra. Graybill doubled an inning later to bring in David Greer and Trever Allen and put his team ahead 3-0.
“I saw a fastball and I just turned on it. Coach [Michael Benjamin] helped me a lot with recognizing pitches inside and outside. I just got to take advantage every time they make a mistake,” Graybill said following the win. He struck out in his other three at-bats.
In the fourth, Kyle Bilbrey stole second on a failed pickoff attempt that allowed Jordan Aboites to steal home and score ASU’s fourth run, placing them ahead 4-2.
After Duncan Wendel led off the sixth for Baylor with a single and was moved to second by the balk, Hayden Ross advanced Wendel to third on a groundout and Adam Toth brought him home in the same way to bring the Bears even at 4-4.
Wendel’s single would be the only hit Melbostad would allow on the day. Neither he nor the Sun Devil’s bats would look back from there.
Greer hit into a fielder’s choice in the bottom of the sixth to plate the go-ahead tally as Aboites scored his second run of the day. Arizona State added two insurance runs in the eighth courtesy of a Greer sacrifice bunt and a Nate Causey pinch-hit single that put the hometown team up 7-4.
Melbostad went 1-2-3 in the ninth to seal the victory for ASU, their first of the season and a step in the direction this team wants to go.
“It feels great. Every time we go out we want to win and if we do lose it’s a fluke in our eyes. We should never lose a game,” Melbostad said. “To me, we are the best team in the country. I can say that with confidence, I can say that with pride.”
Baylor will hang around for one more game in the series with the rubber match scheduled for 12:30 p.m. on Sunday. Austin Stone will take the mound for the Bears, while Brett Lilek will get the start for the Sun Devils.
You can reach Brett Deckert on Twitter @Brett_Deckert or via email at email@example.com