(Photo: Dominic Cotroneo/WCSN)
The Arizona State Sun Devils were one strike away from picking up their seventh win of the season, but a triple that landed a foot over the head of right fielder Gage Canning tied the game for Loyola Marymount and propelled them to victory in the ninth inning on Saturday night.
Coming into the game, LMU starting pitcher Brenton Arriaga had allowed five hits and only one run in 14 innings, but ASU pounced on the righty in the first inning of the game. The Sun Devils jumped out to a quick first inning lead on Saturday and had the offense working early on, as the team collected five hits and scored one run in the first three innings.
Andrew Snow reached base on a fielder’s choice in the bottom half of the first, then singles from Andrew Shaps and Lyle Lin put ASU on the board early on, giving them a 1-0 lead that held for the next three innings.
Spencer Van Scoyoc was given the nod in the second game of the series after an impressive showing against No. 1 ranked TCU last weekend. From the beginning, however, Van Scoyoc struggled, allowing a leadoff single and walk in the first inning. The lefty went five innings for the Sun Devils, allowing one run, while striking out four. The big area of concern for the freshman was his control and consistency, as Van Scoyoc walked five batters in the game, the last three, walks that led off innings.
After throwing four shutout innings, the fifth inning for Van Scoyoc began with a walk and a single. With two outs LMU’s Billy Wilson tied the game up at one with a double to left-center field — the second-to-last batter Van Scoyoc would face in the game.
ASU stormed back in the bottom half, as Gage Canning became the second ASU batter in the game to reach on a dropped third strike, advancing all the way to second on an error from LMU catcher Nathan Keavy. Canning would come around to score on a single from Myles Denson, putting the score at 2-1.
Ryan Hingst came on to pitch a 1-2-3 sixth inning for the Sun Devils, then recorded two quick outs to start the seventh. However, back-to-back singles prompted manager Tracy Smith to bring in freshman lefty Chaz Montoya for the final out of the inning, where he got LMU slugger Billy Wilson, who was 1-1 on the day with two walks, to fly out.
“With his role of what he’s going to do, which is kind of match up and come into those situations, I thought he did exactly what he was supposed to do,” said head coach Tracy Smith after the game. “That kid’s a good hitter, Wilson’s a really really good hitter, that was a crucial situation and time of the game, he came in and did his job.”
The eighth inning for ASU’s pitching staff was given to Reagan Todd, who struck out the side on nine pitches to enter the ball game. The Sun Devils went down 1-2-3 as well in the bottom half, giving the Lions three more outs to tie up the game.
A single, sacrifice bunt and strikeout put a runner on second with two outs for LMU leadoff hitter Phil Caulfield. Todd drove Caulfield, who was hitting a team-best .382 coming into game, into a 1-2 hole. One strike away from the conclusion of the game, Caulfield drove a ball deep into right field, just over the head of right fielder Gage Canning, a triple that brought pinch runner Dylan Hirsch in to score.
“I was probably about a foot or two away,” Canning told the media after the game. “And the guy had two strikes on him, so we’re playing two-strike depth so that stuff kind of just happens, just falls.”
After tripling to right field to tie the game up, Loyola Marymount took the lead on the next batter, when Nick Sogard dropped a base hit into shallow right field that scored Caulfield.
The Sun Devils entered the bottom of the ninth with the sixth, seventh and eighth hitters in the order due up, but relief pitcher Codie Paiva proved to be too much to handle for ASU, as the righty retired the Sun Devils in order to seal the game for his Lions.
In 3 2/3 innings of relief, Paiva picked up his second win of the season, facing the minimum and allowing only one hit, while striking out three Sun Devil hitters.
“I know this sounds crazy, but I’ll sleep pretty well tonight,” Tracy Smith said minutes after his team’s loss. “Because if you play good defense, which we did tonight, and you pitch the baseball, you’re going to be on that winning side of the ledger more often than not. It’s a heartbreaking, terrible loss, I wish it didn’t happen, but what I’m going to focus on tomorrow is do we come out and try to improve on some of the things that we didn’t do tonight, which was some of the selfish at-bats when we needed to not have selfish at-bats.”
Nick Badders is a baseball beat writer for the Walter Cronkite Sports Network. You can follow him on Twitter @BadderUpSports.