(Photo: Dominic Cotroneo/WCSN)
Arizona State narrowly avoided succumbing to a nerve-wracking ninth inning, pulling out a 3-1 victory over Northwestern in game one of the Opening Day doubleheader.
It was an ideal day for baseball at Phoenix Municipal Stadium with the sun shining through a few clouds creating a temperature of 74 degrees as the mountains peaked out from behind the outfield walls, making a simply majestic view.
This game proved early on to be a battle of which pitcher could stay steady longer as both pitchers were forced to maneuver their way through jams.
Lingos allowed two runners on by way of a bloop double by Joe Hoschiet and hit-by-pitch to Willie Bourbon in the second inning but picked off Bourbon to end the frame. The senior pitcher again faced some pressure in the fifth inning as he hit NU center fielder Jake Schieber and then gave up a base hit to Nick Paciorek, but Lingos got Jack Dunn to pop out in foul ground to Lyle Lin to escape the jam.
The senior right-handed pitcher for the Wildcats, Joe Schindler, was solid through the first three innings only allowing one hit to the Sun Devils.
Schindler did get into some trouble in the bottom of the fourth inning as Andrew Snow led off the inning with a single up the middle. Later in the inning, Ryan Lillard walked and freshman Lyle Lin made his impact felt with two out and two runners on. Lin scorched a high fastball over the head of Northwestern right fielder Matt Hopfner’s head to knock in both Snow and Lillard, giving the Sun Devils a 2-0 lead.
Lingos pitched well for ASU as he threw 6 and 2/3 scoreless frames giving up only three hits while striking out six Wildcats and allowing no walks. The junior left-handed pitcher kept his composure well in escaping jams and keeping Northwestern off the board.
ASU had a chance to add to their 2-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning. Freshman catcher Sam Ferri knocked a base hit to center field, then advanced to second and third on two wild pitches from Northwestern relief pitcher Cooper Wetherbee. Gage Canning walked and then junior third baseman Andrew Snow lined a hit into right field to give the Sun Devils a little breathing room up 3-0.
Eder Erives, who was recently named to named to the preseason watch list for the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year Award, came in to close out the game for the Maroon and Gold.
Erives hit Alex Erro with a pitch and then allowed a walk to Joe Hoschiet but regrouped to strikeout Ben Dickey. He then walked Connor Lind to load the bases and at that point, head coach Tracy Smith had seen enough. He pulled the senior for Arizona native Chaz Montoya.
The true freshman walked in Erro to give the Wildcats their first run of the game. Montoya then settled down and struck out Jake Schieber to set a bases loaded two out situation. He then struck out Nick Paciorek with a big lefty curveball to close out the win for the Sun Devils for his first career save. ASU wins the game 3-1 and improves to 1-0 after the first part of the doubleheader.
Player of the Game: Eli Lingos. The junior left-handed pitcher guided the Sun Devils through much of the game handling NU. He put the pressure on Schindler to keep pitching scoreless frames for the Wildcats.
Unsung Hero: Lyle Lin. The true freshman from Taiwan had a solid debut for the Sun Devils going 2-for-4 with a double and 2 runs batted in and made some solid plays at first base in addition to his nice day at the plate.
You knew it was over when: Andrew Snow knocked in the third run of the game in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Sun Devils had held Northwestern to just three hits prior to that.
Biggest Concern: The ASU pitchers combined to have three hit-by-pitches in the game. The control of the Sun Devil pitchers faded at times and the command will need to be more sharp as the season gets going.
Stat of the Night: The ASU hitters combined to hit 9-for-32 in the season opener. That is a .281 average and with the nerves of the first game, it’s promising for Sun Devil baseball fans to see their team doing well at the plate.
What’s Next?: Next for the ASU is the second game of today’s doubleheader against NU. The Sun Devils will send junior right-handed starting pitcher Ryan Hingst to the mound to face off against the Wildcats’ freshman Hank Christie. First pitch will be at 6:30 p.m. MST and can be watched on the Pac-12 live stream.