(Photo: Allyson Cummings/WCSN)
The No. 19 Arizona State Sun Devils (2-2) fell to New Mexico (2-2) on Tuesday night, 7-1, as New Mexico’s five-run fifth inning buried an anemic Sun Devil offense.
Darin Gillies kept ASU in the game for four innings, but he began to lose control of his fastball and leave it elevated in the zone in the fifth and the New Mexico lineup did not hesitate to make him pay.
Coach Tim Esmay said after a victory on Sunday that the matchup against New Mexico would be a bullpen game. Yet when asked what the conversation was like to send Gillies back out to pitch the fifth (after giving up a run in both the third and fourth inning), Esmay said, “There wasn’t any. He was pitching well and we sent him back out there.”
New Mexico hitters dialed in on Gillies’s fastball and began delivering single after single. The Lobos took a 2-0 lead after three consecutive base-hits from catcher Alex Real, right fielder John Pustay (now batting .438) and designated hitter Jack Zoellner, giving Gillies the loss after 4.1 innings of work.
Mark Lambson inherited the bases loaded with one out and struggled as well, allowing three more hits and only earned one out. Eder Erives entered the game and stopped the bleeding at seven runs on seven hits, all of them singles.
The Sun Devil offense wasn’t able to match the effort.
Two days removed from a 12-run offensive outburst and a series removed from hitting .337 as a team, the Sun Devils hitters struggled mightily against the Lobos pitching staff.
“We didn’t stream good at-bats tonight,” Esmay said. “We didn’t make adjustments. They came in and pitched us a little differently than we were pitched this weekend. They were commanding a lot of off-speed early in the count. We weren’t as patient or as disciplined as we were over the weekend.”
The collective effort of Victor Sanchez, Taylor Duree, Jon Cuellar (who earned the win) and Jake Cole stifled Arizona State, allowing only one run and six hits.
A theme of wasted opportunities plagued the Sun Devil lineup for the entire night, as they left nine runners on base.
The Sun Devils were unable to capitalize on an opportunity to get on the scoreboard in the bottom of the second. After Joey Bielek, Jake Peevyhouse and Drew Stankiewicz all drew walks, New Mexico shortstop Jare Holley made a full-extension diving catch to rob Kyle Bilbrey of a base hit.
“I look at it from an offensive standpoint, and say ‘We got guys on base,’” Esmay said. “Those things start to take care of themselves. We still have some young guys in there, guys trying to figure out what they’re going to do at the Division I level. With experience comes the capability of understanding how to have that at bat with guys on base.”
The theme goes on.
The first hit for the Sun Devils finally came in the fourth, as first baseman David Graybill sent a 1-2 pitch screaming over the left field fence for his first career collegiate home run, cutting the Lobos lead to 2-1.
Graybill’s home run rejuvenated the Sun Devil offense, as shortstop Drew Stankiewicz and catcher RJ Ybarra followed with a single and double, respectively. With an opportunity to bust the game open, the ASU rally fell short, as Trever Allen lined a fastball up the middle, but right at Lobos’ centerfielder Aaron Siple to retire the side.
The Arizona State offense would muster only three hits over the remaining four innings, and provide no real threat to the eventual six-run Baylor lead.
To add insult to injury, and to further cement the need for the Sun Devils to put this loss behind them, the Sun Devil defense committed three errors. In three games against Baylor to open the season, they had only one.
“I thought there was a little bit of sluggishness tonight,” Esmay said. “We took yesterday off after the first weekend, an emotional weekend. We haven’t done this too often—play a Tuesday game in the beginning of the season. I believe we’re going to grow from it.”
The Sun Devils will now embark on a seven-game road trip beginning with a game against Long Beach State on Friday at 7 p.m.
You can reach Jacob Garcia on Twitter @jake3garcia or via email at Jacob.M.Garcia@asu.edu