(Photo: Dominic Cotroneo/WCSN)
The Arizona State Sun Devils cemented the series sweep against Stanford Sunday, claiming a 14-6 victory behind two monster performances by both Brett Lilek and Brian Serven.
Lilek was lights-out on the mound for the Sun Devils. Lilek went six innings-plus and 77 pitches without a hit. Four of the six innings were in 1-2-3 fashion.
“It’s one of those things where guys see the light,” Coach Tracy Smith said. “What I mean by that is when you’re at the low of the low and we had a very candid conversation this week that when you’re in this program….you have to prove it day in and day out. And he has not been doing that very well. But, I’m very proud of him because he knew where he stood and he responded, some guys don’t respond that well and he did it. I think it’s about getting himself prepared mentally and doing what he does and he did an excellent job today.”
If Lilek was the propeller behind the ASU defense, Serven, who occupied the DH spot, was the catalyst for the ASU offense. Serven went 5-for-5 with four runs, two of which were homeruns, and five RBIs.
“We needed that, someone said the last five-hit game by a Sun Devil had been a while so he was locked in pretty well and when you’re getting hits and runs and knocking them out of the park then I guess things are going right for you,” Smith said.
In regards to the last Sun Devil to collect five hits in a game, Michael Benjamin accomplished the feat in 2012. For ASU the history of the game goes beyond the outburst from Serven. The weekend was their first series win over the Cardinal since 2011.
The Sun Devils were on the board early, putting up two quick runs in the bottom of the first inning after Stanford pitcher Logan James started off the inning with back-to-back-to-back walks bringing designated hitter Brian Serven to the plate. Serven took advantage of the bases loaded, no outs opportunity with a single through the left side that scored Johnny Sewald.
The next pitch had Trever Allen grounding into a double play but nonetheless scoring Jake Peevyhouse to give the Sun Devils the early lead.
Stanford’s pitching struggles continued in the bottom of the third inning when ASU added two to their total with two outs left in the frame.
Serven started off the inning with another single up the middle, which was enough to shake up the pitcher and elicit a walk followed by two wild pitches that advanced the runners two bases, allowing Serven to cross. Catcher Zach Cerbo kept it going after lining one to right that scored Allen and put the Sun Devils up 4-0 with six innings to play.
“There’s definitely is a different approach to the game when you’re just hitting. When I’m catching I usually focus on defense more than anything. When I’m DH’ing I can just focus on hitting and I don’t know if it’s the way it happens but I feel really comfortable,” Serven said.
Lilek saw his biggest test in the fourth when he walked two batters and barely scraped out the hitless inning after the runner reached on a fielder’s choice. With two outs and a man on third, Lilek was able to pitch himself out of the jam.
Serven sparked another good inning for the Sun Devils in the top of the fifth, collecting his third hit and second run of the game after his single up the middle was followed up by a David Greer single that scored Serven and increased the deficit to 5-0.
Lilek settled back in after a rocky fourth and pitched back-to-back 1-2-3 innings to put the Sun Devils into the sixth up five. However, it was the seventh inning where Lilek’s chance at a no-hitter was squandered by three singles and a sac-fly to put the Cardinal on the board 5-1. However, once again Lilek maintained his composure and escaped the inning with only one earned run.
If Lilek’s efforts to suppress a comeback weren’t enough, ASU answered with three runs in the next frame off a pair off homers by Serven and pinch hitter R.J. Ybarra to make the score 8-1 ASU.
The Cardinal tacked on a four runs on a prolonged bases-loaded, no-outs situation, which brought closer Ryan Burr to the mound for a chance at the four-out save. Burr struck out the last batter to end the dangerous eighth inning that left ASU only up three.
Serven’s red-hot bat continued in next frame however, crushing one over the left field wall with one out and two men on for his second homerun of the day. Two singles in the same frame put Stanford in a 14-5 hole going into the ninth.
“This is the best game I’ve ever had. I was just really trying to hit the ball hard, the first time I was leading off the inning just trying to get on base, and at first I just thought I hit a line drive and the goal is just to hit hard every time, so I was just trying to barrel it up, stay with the plan, stay with the middle,” Serven said.
The Cardinal was able to put a run on the board in the ninth but seven pitching changes and six hitless innings was too much for Stanford to overcome.
“Skip really preaches that good teams need to win all three games in a series if you win the first two and we really had a good mindset today and came out firing, which was really nice to see,” Serven said.
ASU will take on New Mexico State on Tuesday at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. First pitch is set for 6:30.
You can reach the editor on Twitter @KristinaV_18 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org