(Photo: Nicole Hernandez/WCSN)
Regardless of talent level, every baseball team is bound to hit a wall at some point during the course of a season. According to Arizona State head coach Tracy Smith, his Sun Devil team have crashed into the first one of their 2017 campaign.
In the second game of their two-game mid-week series against the Cal State Fullerton Titans, Arizona State surrendered nine runs through the first three innings en route to a 13-4 loss, the team’s fourth straight.
“You’re absolutely going to hit rough patches in a season and we’ve hit one clearly,” Smith said. “I think our pitching was a little stretched just based on the number of pitches some of our main guys threw over the weekend, we knew they’d probably be unavailable. And it showed up tonight against a very very good opponent.”
A testament to how thin the pitching staff was coming into Wednesday’s game, Smith handed the ball to Fitz Stadler (1-1), despite the sophomore dealing with an oblique strain. The Glenview, IL native didn’t make it past the second inning as he allowed eight hits and seven runs, four of which were unearned.
The Sun Devil offense showed a glimpse that they might be able to bail their depleted staff out in a shootout, scoring four runs in the second inning thanks to RBI doubles from Gage Canning and Ryan Lillard.
On the contrary, they managed only two hits after that frame while Cal State Fullerton answered back with two runs in the top of the third and four more in the top of the sixth.
Despite the struggles on offense, Smith said he believes that the lineup is starting to be solidified as the team gets ready to play its final non-conference series this weekend before welcoming Oregon State to Phoenix starting March 17th.
The team has lost four in a row getting and is getting ready to host Long Beach State this weekend, still, comparisons could be drawn to last season when the team lost five straight just after the beginning of conference play. Arizona State eventually turned the tables and made a run at the Pac-12 title. Smith believes that can be a motivator for his club during this rough stretch.
“I’d be lying to you if I said it wasn’t in the back of the mind,” Smith said. “We’re not going to panic early. We’re a good baseball team, we were a good baseball team five games ago… and we’re not satisfied with that, we’re not happy with a loss, I don’t expect people to be rejoicing in that. But my baseball mind says, ‘You know what? We had a little bit of a challenge this midweek, we’ve got to get it right on the weekend and build from there.'”
Bobby Kraus is a baseball beat reporter for the Walter Cronkite Sports Network. You can follow him on Twitter @bobbykraus22