(Photo: Nicole Hernandez/WCSN)
In what has been the biggest area of struggle for Arizona State pitchers this season, a lack of control and a series of walks cost the team, as the Sun Devils blew a 4-1 lead to No. 7 ranked Cal State Fullerton, losing by a final score of 10-4.
Despite pitching 1 2/3 innings of relief on Saturday, Ryan Hingst was tabbed as the Tuesday starter for ASU, with head coach Tracy Smith making it a “bullpen game,” starting Hingst on a day when he would normally throw a bullpen session. From the beginning of the game, the plan was to get a few innings out of the junior righty and then use other bullpen arms as needed as the game went on.
“I told him [Hingst], he’s had really good performances out of the pen, with a good fastball, which it’s always been,” Smith noted after the loss. “So we said today, if you can give us one, give us one. If you can give us two, give us two, three, whatever, just give us what you got. Don’t try to treat it as a starter mentality and save yourself because you’re going to be back in the bullpen this weekend… He gave up one run in three and a third so did what we asked him to do.
In the 3 and 1/3 innings that he threw, Hingst allowed only one hit and one run, while striking out two. The big area of concern over his 55 pitches were the walks and hit batters. He walked three Fullerton batters and hit two.
Giving up free bases to Titan hitters was a theme all night long, with the seven Sun Devil pitchers issuing a total of eight walks throughout the night. Four of the nine innings began with a walk and four of the eight hitters walked would eventually come around to score in the game. In the end, Tracy Smith chalks it down to being bad baseball.
“No disrespect to Cal State Fullerton but we gave them, we jumpstarted their innings with walks, we jumpstarted their innings with errors, we don’t catch pop-ups,” Smith detailed. “The message to the team right now is we’re not a bad baseball team, we’re playing bad baseball right now… If we just throw strikes and make them beat us, I would have to say the result is probably different. But give credit to them, they took advantage of our mistakes. We’re 12 games in, nobody in that locker room is giving up on this team, but we’ve got to play better baseball, we have to eliminate the walks because if you don’t eliminate the walks, it makes it very very difficult to win at this levels teams are too good. We’ve seen that guys throw strikes, we’ve seen guys be aggressive in the zone, we’re a victim of our own mistakes so if we eliminate those mistakes, the results will be different.”
After the first four innings, ASU looked to be in a good position, out with a 4-1 lead over one of the nation’s best teams.
Jackson Willeford led off the first innings with a single, then was followed up by singles from Andrew Shaps, Lyle Lin and Carter Aldrete to put two runs on the board after one inning of play. Fullerton scored a single run in the fourth, but the Devils came right back, as Sam Ferri singled and Jackson Willeford drew a walk, both with two outs. The two-out momentum was continued with an RBI single from Myles Denson and an RBI double off the bat of Andrew Shaps.
After the first four innings, the bad baseball began to pick up and the Titans never looked back, with Fullerton tying the game up in the sixth inning and taking the lead in the seventh. Timely CSUF hits and poorly placed pitches from ASU’s staff prevented them from experiencing success after the early lead. Despite pitching a scoreless eighth inning, Garvin Alston Jr. allowed four runs in the ninth inning, putting the game out of reach for ASU’s hitters, leading to the 10-4 final score.
Tomorrow looks to be more of the same for ASU pitching wise, as Fitz Stadler will take the mound to start, but any handful of pitchers can expect to see time in the game.
“We don’t have two midweek starters right now,” Smith said. “We’re going to probably break that game up again just because of the amount of innings we played over the weekend, using the number of guys we did tonight.”
Despite the loss to Fullerton making it three straight for the Sun Devils, Tracy Smith made it clear he would not let the streak define his program, despite their consistent struggle of giving games away.
“The message to the team is, if you’re going to let three loses in a row affect who you are as a player, then you need to find another profession,” ASU’s head coach said in regards to his team’s mentality. “If you think you’re going to make a career out of this and you’re going to let three baseball games define who you are and then you collectively throw that together to define who we are, wrong program, wrong sport… You’ve got to be able to handle adversity in this stuff.”