(Photo: Kimmy Davis/WCSN)
An inning removed from his shortest relief appearance of the season and an 0-for-3 night at the plate, Jordan Aboites needed a morale booster.
The two-way second baseman-relief pitcher came through in a big way for both himself and his team, as his walk-off single in the ninth propelled the Sun Devils to a 5-4 win over Bakersfield in the first game of the Phoenix Muni Classic.
“I just tried to keep my head in it for the team. There’s really no one guy that’s going to win the game. For me to not pitch good or not have really any good previous at-bats, it was my job to put myself aside and stay focused for the team and try to put a good at-bat together,” Aboites said.
Trever Allen looked as if he would end it on the first pitch in the ninth, but his hard-hit ball fell just short of the left field wall for a double and instantly put a runner in scoring position.
After an intentional walk, a balk that advanced both runners to second and third and another intentional walk to load the bases, Aboites came up to the plate with the bases juiced and no outs.
The at-bat that ensued could be labeled as nothing less than redemption, as Aboites hit a fastball out to left field to score Allen and give ASU its second walk-off victory of the season.
“I had some trouble today staying back on pitches and I knew that guy wasn’t going to really overpower anyone. I knew he was going to try to come soft for most of the at-bat. I ended up getting two fastballs out, the change-ups that I took and the fastball out was the one that I hit. I was just really trying to stay back and drive something deep,” Aboites said.
Aboites’s heroics gave closer Ryan Burr the win, as Burr entered the game with no outs in the eighth, allowed a single to tie the game, but then promptly retired six of the next batters (four via the strikeout) he faced.
Still, the three-run eighth for Bakersfield spoiled the prospect of a win for starter Seth Martinez, who pitched brilliantly Thursday night. All told, Martinez pitched seven innings, allowing one earned run and striking out a career-high nine batters.
“I felt good today. Our focus with the staff is just pounding the zone and competing in the zone and that’s what I was trying to do the whole game and it seemed to work,” Martinez said. “I was real confident in my fastball today. I was able to locate it and the strikeout pitch, when I could get it to work, was definitely the slider.”
Martinez started out the game with a quick 1-2-3 inning, setting up his offense to get on the board in the bottom of the first. A single to left by first baseman Chris Beall did just that and scored Colby Woodmansee and Johnny Sewald to give ASU a 2-0 lead.
Martinez scuffled in the second, giving up a triple to Bakersfield’s Ryan Grotjohn, who later crossed on a single to left to put the Roadrunners back within one.
ASU would regain momentum in the third, though, after back-to-back singles by Woodmansee and Jake Peevyhouse and a sac-fly from designated hitter RJ Ybarra put ASU up 3-1.
While the front and middle of the lineup proved strong from the start, Dalton Dinatale gave some notoriety to the end of the lineup after he knocked one over the right field fence in the fourth for his first home run of the season.
But as has become custom from ASU this season, the Sun Devils would find a way to make things interesting late.
Right-handed pitcher Eder Erives came in after seven innings of solid pitching by Martinez to load the bases with no outs. Eight pitches later, Erives was replaced.
Aboites was then unable to pitch the Sun Devils out of trouble, giving up an RBI single that scored two, putting Bakersfield back within one and forcing ASU to prematurely bring in Burr.
Burr was unable to get out of the inning unharmed, as Jordie Hein scored on an RBI groundout, tying the game at four.
Burr rebounded for a solid ninth inning and ultimately primed the ASU bats for a potential walk-off.
Aboites came ultimately came through and walked his team off with his single to left.
ASU faces a quick turnaround tomorrow, as it takes on Bakersfield again at 2 p.m. and then Purdue for the second game of the double-header at 6:30 p.m.
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