(Photo: Blaine McCormick/WCSN)
The Arizona State baseball team has plenty of question marks three weekends into the season, and those question marks reared their ugly head in their series finale Sunday against Loyola Marymount.
An 8-5 loss and a 2-1 weekend series loss highlighted by shaky pitching and inconsistent offense is not ideal, but also not surprising given the fact that this team lost key cogs on offense in Colby Woodmansee and David Greer as well as a guaranteed quality start every weekend delivered by Seth Martinez.
ASU head coach Tracy Smith understands that the level of play will need to be elevated for his program to succeed, and that it will take time for results to show given the youth and inexperience on his roster.
“As crazy as it sounds I’m not too worried about it, because every time we go out we’re learning a little bit here,” Smith said. “Hopefully we can get healthy here before we start conference [play]. It’s in there, we just gotta find the right combination. The greatest challenge you have at a place like Arizona State with a young team is making sure guys stay confident in what they’re doing and stay together as a team.”
Less than 18 hours after losing a game he led 2-1 with two outs in the ninth inning, Smith handed the ball to junior transfer Jake Godfrey for his first start as a Sun Devil. The New Lenox, IL native looked sharp through the first three innings, but lost his command in the fourth, which led to him allowing five of the six runs that LMU plated that inning.
Godfrey (1-1) was staked to a 2-0 lead thanks to an RBI single from Lyle Lin in the first inning and a Carter Aldrete home run in the second, but couldn’t make it stand up as he finished the day with 3.2 IP, five hits, five runs, three walks and three strikeouts.
Smith isn’t sure what Godfrey’s role will be moving forward after he bumped Ryan Hingst from the rotation for this weekend, but knows that the former LSU Tiger will have a big impact on the 2017 season.
“I thought he wore down a little bit there when he got around the 50 pitch limit,” Smith said. “So trying to find out what his role is going to be for us, I think you kinda go on what you see. It was good to get him out there…but I’m not worried about him.”
After finding themselves down 6-2 after four innings, ASU clawed their way back into the game as best they could, with a solo home run from Andrew Shaps and RBI hits from Lyle Lin and Tyler Williams cutting the deficit to 6-5.
In the end, it proved to be too little too late, as LMU plated runs in the eighth and ninth inning to ensure the victory.
Along with the question marks in the starting rotation, the back end of the bullpen is a mystery as well for the Sun Devils.
Smith called upon senior reliever Eder Erives, in his first action since Opening Day due to injury, in the eighth inning to try to hold the Lions lead at one. The El Paso, TX native turned in the same line as he did in his first appearance of the season: 0.1 IP, with two walks and an earned run.
Coming off his junior season with 76.1 IP, a 2.95 ERA and 10 saves, Smith knows that Erives performing at his full potential is arguably the most important component to the team’s performance.
“If we’re going to have success this year, we’re going to need him pitching with a little bit more of an edge and a little bit more sense of purpose,” Smith said. “I don’t think right now it’s from a lack of trying, but he’s going to have to get back to old form for us to be good.”
The Sun Devils will have a quick turnaround when they welcome the Cal State Fullerton Titans to Phoenix Municipal Stadium on March 7th and 8th, wrapping up the home-and-home series that was started last season in Fullerton.
Bobby Kraus is a baseball beat reporter for the Walter Cronkite Sports Network. You can follow him on Twitter @bobbykraus22