(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
Midweek games sandwiched between conference play can prove to be treacherous, and Tuesday’s game was no exception for the Sun Devils, who trailed the entire game and fell 6-3 to the University of San Diego.
After a weekend sweep at the hands of the Oregon State Beavers, the last thing ASU (13-7) wanted was to come out flat at home, but that is exactly what occurred. The Sun Devils trailed from the first inning on, and couldn’t put enough runs together to mount a comeback against the Toreros (13-10).
The Sun Devils dropped their first non-conference game since their loss to Long Beach State on February 28.
After the game, head coach Tracy Smith was far from pleased with the effort given by his team.
“You are going to go through stretches where it seems like nothing is going your way,” Smith said. “When you go through those things, you look for ‘What is the makeup of my squad?’ ‘Is there an aggressiveness in the approach?’ so my takeaway from this game is that there wasn’t a lot of fight in the dog today.”
“That concerns me because if everybody is going to put an effort into something, it is easy to do it when you are winning. It’s not so easy when you are not playing well. Those are the things that I look for, and I’m not seeing a lot of fight in this ball club.”
The Sun Devils had to battle back early, after Jordan Aboites, who was making his second start of the season, put ASU in an early hole by giving up a run in each of the first three innings. By the time he rebounded in the fourth, his outing was over. The pesky Toreros totaled five extra base hits, including a triple and a home run, most of which came in the early innings.
“Filling up the zone was something I wanted to do,” Aboites said. “I was falling behind in counts and wasn’t throwing first pitch strikes a lot, so I got them into a lot of hitters counts.”
He was replaced by Reagan Todd, who performed admirably in an unfamiliar role and gave up only two hits and two runs over four innings. It was just Todd’s second relief appearance in seven outings this season.
Offensively, ASU had their moments, but scattered their hits and could not dig their way out of the deficit. Brian Serven and Andrew Shaps both collected RBI singles on the night. Shaps, R.J. Ybarra, making his first start of the season, and Ryan Lillard were the only Sun Devil hitters who delivered a multi-hit game.
The chances were there for ASU to capitalize, such as in the fourth inning, which was probably their best opportunity. The Sun Devils were only down a run and had the bases loaded with one out, but Coltin Gerhart grounded into a double play to end the inning.
“We swung at a ball down in a hitters count with the bases loaded,” Smith said. “He (Gerhart) hasn’t played a lot, so that stuff is going to happen. I have to believe that we have good hitters and over time, if they have the right approach, they will succeed more than they will fail in situations like that, it just didn’t happen tonight.”
ASU made some more noise in the ninth inning, putting runners on second and third with two outs, but a Brian Serven strikeout halted the comeback for good.
Resiliency is going to play an important part in determining the Sun Devils’ success in conference play. They will face one of last season’s bottom-dwellers, Utah, this weekend, but ASU will have their work cut out for them in every game in the Pac-12.
It will be up to this Sun Devil team to show the same energy that sparked their eight game winning streak just a few weeks ago.
“We have to move on from it,” Aboites said. “Coming off last weekend, we really wanted to get this win, and there are some little things we can work on, but we just have to have a good practice tomorrow and focus on the weekend.”