(Photo: Dominic Cotroneo/WCSN)
No. 9 Arizona State fell to No. 2 UCLA in extra innings by a score of 11-5. It was the longest home game for ASU since 1990, coincidentally also against UCLA.
The marathon lasted 17 innings and the deciding play occurred when Brett Stephens hit a line drive for a single off ASU reliever Jordan Aboites in the 17th. The Bruins then broke it open via a three-run double by Trent Chatterton. With the loss, ASU is now 8-4 in one-run games in the Pac-12 and 14-7 overall.
On the heels of an embarrassing 9-0 defeat against the Bruins, ASU came into the game much more focused, even though they lost in the end.
“This was a turning point for this group,” head coach Tracy Smith said. “You want to have the win, but as a coach, you’re looking for how your team plays. Last night we played miserably and with no intensity. Tonight we didn’t play very well in extra innings, but I will not go home questioning whether we were into it.”
Coming off a series of good starts in his previous appearances, left-hander Ryan Kellogg was great up until the eighth inning, when he surrendered four runs. Nevertheless, the junior was still a workhorse, going nine innings while striking out seven.
“He (Kellogg) is very good when he is ahead,” Smith said. “He did a good job of getting strike one and making those guys put the ball in play. He made some big pitches when he had to. He made one bad pitch on the night, and it probably cost our team the win, but I’ll take that from him any day.”
Smith was able to use his bullpen frugally early in extra innings, throwing closer Ryan Burr for three innings. Eder Erives pitched into his third inning of work as well, giving the bullpen a huge lift.
The Sun Devil bats came out of the gate strong against Bruins starter Grant Watson, who entered the game among the leaders in ERA in the Pac-12. ASU scored runs in the first, third and fourth innings against the left-hander, who never really had a chance to settle in.
Johnny Sewald doubled to start the game and came around to score on a groundout by Colby Woodmansee. The shortstop drove in his second run of the game on a sacrifice fly in the third. ASU doubled their lead in the next inning on RBI singles by Sewald and right fielder Trever Allen.
The Sun Devils were in full control of the game until the top of the eighth, when UCLA scored four runs against Kellogg on five hits, culminating in a two-run double from Chris Keck. The double occurred when the Bruins were down to their final strike of the inning.
From then on, runs came at a premium. Both bullpens were excellent, as neither team scored nor posed a serious threat to score for six consecutive innings. Bruins closer David Berg threw six innings and amassed a total of 73 pitches. UCLA’s bullpen combined for 9 and 1/3 innings.
In the end, the Sun Devils used eight total pitchers while UCLA only used four.
The extra frames allowed for added drama, including both teams scoring a run in the 15th and a benches-clearing brawl in the 16th on a play at home plate that resulted in UCLA head coach John Savage being ejected.
“It was a good, hard, aggressive slide,” Smith said about the slide from UCLA shortstop Kevin Kramer that caused the brawl. “It was a bunch of good 18- and 19-year-olds with a lot of testosterone flowing.”
The six-run 17th against Aboites closed the book on a possible ASU comeback for good, but its resilience proved that it can hang with the Bruins.
“You’re sick to your stomach about the loss,” Smith said. “I’m not happy about the loss, but I’ll sleep well tonight. If you play with that intensity and that enthusiasm for each other, we will be alright.”
It was the first time ASU played 14 innings or more since April 21, 2011. The final game time was five hours and 51 minutes.
ASU will send Brett Lilek to the mound on Sunday to try to avoid the sweep against the Bruins.