(Photo: Blaine McCormick/WCSN)
The first inning has been an issue for the Arizona State Sun Devils in 2017. The team has fallen behind time-after-time causing ASU to constantly work from behind.
ASU (12-14, 2-7 Pac-12) was brutally beat 17-4 by UCLA (13-12, 6-3 Pac-12) after surrendering five runs in the first inning.
“We’ve got to do a better job at getting out of the first inning, making it the ninth inning mentality,” said ASU head coach Tracy Smith.
Home plate umpire Billy Haze’s tight strike-zone proved to be a factor early as the ASU starting pitcher, Reagan Todd looked confused and frustrated early on.
Smith said that he did think that Haze’s zone got to Todd early on.
Todd couldn’t find a groove in the first inning as he gave up five runs including a walk to load the bases and one to walk in a run. His ineffectiveness in the first, allowed all nine of the Bruins to bat in the top of the first.
Todd lasted just one and one third innings, allowing six runs (five earned) on four hits while walking two. His lack of command hurt his ability to attack UCLA hitters as he threw just four first-pitch fastballs to the 12 batters he faced.
“We were looking at piecing this game together. We were looking to get two or three innings out of him. We had Hingst waiting in the wings, we had Godfrey and Eder still available if we were in a situation where we had the lead. Unfortunately it was a big separation quickly,” Smith said.
Todd was pulled by ASU head coach Tracy Smith after recording four outs, having thrown 45 pitches.
On the opposite site of the field, UCLA’s starting pitcher, Jon Olsen had thrown just 46 pitches at the end of four innings.
After allowing a home run to Andrew Shaps in the first inning, Olsen recorded 14 consecutive outs from the first inning into the sixth inning.
Olsen went six and two third innings, giving up two runs on three hits while striking out four Sun Devils.
“He was good. He was throwing his breaking ball behind in the count for strikes, kept walks to a minimum and did a good job of just saying ‘my defense will play behind me,’” said Smith.
For UCLA, the offense put together 17 runs. Sean Bouchard, the Bruins’ first baseman went 3-for-4 with two doubles, two RBI’s and a walk. UCLA’s second baseman, Chase Stumpf provided for the Bruins as well as also went 3-for-4 with two doubles seven RBI’s.
For the Sun Devils, Andrew Shaps hit a solo home run in the first inning and Zach Cerbo hit a home run in the sixth inning, but for the most part, the ASU offense couldn’t put anything together.
The first inning struggles have been detrimental to the team in 2017 and Tracy Smith used a metaphor from his personal life to connect to the issue.
“My wife makes a good cup of coffee in the morning. What do you start to expect? When you wake up, you expect that cup of coffee to be there.”
Smith correlated his off-the-field example to the team saying, “If it happens enough, what happens? You expect to get scored upon. That’s the stuff we’re battling on, particularly with a young team. You don’t want to ever expect bad things to happen because what generally happens then? Bad things. The reality of it is we’ve been playing from behind early a lot. It’s tough on the offense.”
Rob Werner is an ASU Baseball Beat Writer for the Walter Cronkite Sports Network. You can follow him on twitter @robwerner28.