(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
Pac-12 play has not been kind to Arizona State this season. With their 4-2 loss to Washington on Friday, ASU is a meager 3-7 in conference and 16-11 overall.
They have lost series to Utah and Oregon State and are now in a position in which they have to win two straight in order to beat UW in the three game set. Because of their recent dry spell, ASU finds themselves towards the bottom, rather than the top or even the middle of the Pac-12 standings.
The hitting, which has been good on most occasions, was a big part of the Sun Devils downfall. They got only two runs and four hits off of Noah Bremer, the Huskies starter who has been one of the better pitchers in the Pac-12.
“I think he did a good job, particularly early in the game, of locating and flipping his off-speed up there,” ASU head coach Tracy Smith said. “We took a lot of fastballs, which philosophically we are supposed to hit.”
The lone inning in which ASU made any noise was the sixth. They had just two hits entering the inning, but matched that total on an Andrew Snow single and an Andrew Shaps RBI triple. Two walks in the inning also led to the Sun Devils bringing the go-ahead run to the plate in the inning, but Sebastian Zawada was robbed of a potential single.
ASU also brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth, but did not come close to any sort of threat.
The lack of offense has continued to leave Smith wondering when that big hit will come.
“Who wants to be at the plate when the bases are loaded and shoot one in the gap?” Smith asked. “I can’t recall if we have had one (big hit) this year.”
Not only was the lack of offense a source of frustration for Smith, but also the poor fielding from ASU, which did not help matters.
“I am trying to look at this and say ‘okay, we have some young guys playing, guys who aren’t seasoned yet, how are we going to find a way to win the game,’” he remarked.
ASU entered the game 10th in the Pac-12 in fielding percentage, and had two errors on Friday. They also had a pair of misplays in the field, by both Colby Woodmansee and Tyler Williams.
The error by Jeremy McCuin led to a two-run double by Huskies second baseman Levi Jordan, which doubled their lead to 4-0. It added to the damage against Seth Martinez, who allowed four runs, eight hits, and four walks in 4 and 2/3 innings, his shortest outing of the season. While his line wasn’t pretty, Smith was not completely disappointed in his performance, and put some blame on the offense and defense.
“You are going to have those outings once in a while,” he said. “I don’t think he was completely sharp, but I think he pitched well enough if we make the plays behind us, to give us a chance to win. We did not do that tonight. It puts a lot of pressure on a guy to be on the very top of his game every single time. He should be allowed to have a game where he is not particularly sharp, but we should be able to pick him up.”
Luckily for the Sun Devils, they stayed within a reasonable striking distance due to a strong long relief outing by Eli Lingos.
The sophomore left-hander, who has made five starts this season, kept the mindset of attacking hitters, the same one that he carries when starting.
In his walk-free outing, he struck out seven and allowed only three hits and no runs. Despite some tough starts, his ERA is an impressive 2.37 for the season.
“I had my two-seam dialed in,” he said. “Getting ahead of hitters was big and going at them with off-speed and finding it too.”
His job replacing Martinez was to hold them to where they were at, which he did quite well.
Even if a return to the starting rotation isn’t in the cards for Lingos, he may have begun to carve a niche as a long reliever for a team that is searching for one.
Speaking of the rotation, Smith will change things up this weekend and start Eder Erives on Saturday instead of Ryan Hingst, who was originally planned to go that day.
After tonight’s frustrating loss, ASU will be looking for answers of any sort the rest of the way, because their current play has baffled Smith.
“If you are a baseball player at Arizona State, there is an expectation that comes with that. Right now, we are nowhere near living up to that expectation. We’re either going to get better and develop, or we are going to recruit, because this level of play is not acceptable here. That is not said out of frustration, it is said out of watching 27 baseball games of a similar pattern.”