(Photo: Kimmy Davis/WCSN)
Game 1 vs. Bakersfield
Arizona State’s success rate has been fairly average in close games this season, but one constant has been the struggles of the bullpen and defense. The day game of the doubleheader was no different.
The wheels came off for ASU in the ninth after they came back to tie the game in the eighth, and the Sun Devils fell 7-4 to the CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners.
Relievers Ryan Hingst and Hever Bueno combined to allow three runs to cross the plate, headlined by a drop by Bueno while he was covering first base. Ryan Lillard had tied it in the bottom of the eighth with an RBI double, his first hit and RBI as a Sun Devil.
ASU was unable to mount a comeback in the bottom half of the ninth, despite putting the first two runners on base.
After beating the Roadrunners on Thursday night in their first game of the Phoenix Muni Classic, ASU sent Darin Gillies to the mound for game one of the anticipated doubleheader.
Gillies was on cruise control until the sixth inning, when he surrendered a two-run home run to Jordie Hein. He was relieved by Jordan Aboites, who allowed an inherited runner to score. Gillies finished the day surrendering three runs and striking out seven batters.
Perhaps the most troubling story of the day was the clutch hitting, or lack thereof from the Sun Devils, as they were just 2-20 with runners on base and 1-15 with runners in scoring position. It wouldn’t be wrong to assume this was a big reason for the loss.
A big offensive boost that ASU did receive was a Dalton Dinatale solo home run that came in the second inning. The Phoenix Muni Classic has treated Dinatale well so far, as it was his second consecutive game with a long ball.
The lack of clutch hitting plagued the Sun Devils, as they were unable to get much more against the ‘Runners pitching.
With the loss, ASU is now 5-4 while Bakersfield improved to 5-6.
Game 2 vs. Purdue
Game two was a very different result, as the Sun Devils offense flexed their muscles en route to a 15-5 blowout win over the Purdue Boilermakers.
After struggling to put up runs in its past couple games, it was a positive sign to see ASU reach double digit runs in a game for the first time this season–the bulk of which came in a nine-run fifth inning.
The game did not start out as planned due to Brett Lilek’s control problems. The ace left-hander lasted just 2 and 2/3 innings, allowing five earned runs and walking three, although the Boilermakers hitters drew many more deep counts.
ASU was forced to turn the game over to a taxed bullpen early on, but sophomore reliever Eder Erives and freshman relievers Eli Lingos, Andrew Shaps and Grant Schneider did their job of keeping the Boilermakers off the scoreboard for the rest of the night.
“I saw some guys that went out and got after it in the strike zone,” Smith said about the three freshman pitchers. “I was very impressed with Eli, I thought Eli had a good feel for what he was doing. Getting Andrew out there was nice because there was finally a game to have him stretch out a little bit and get some of these guys to have some dirt under the spikes. It’s different pitching ten runs out than in a tight ballgame, but they will hopefully grow into that role.”
Purdue jumped out to a 3-0 lead and then a 5-3 lead, but both times the Sun Devils battled back.
ASU got surprising, but strong, production from bottom-of-the-order hitters, Zach Cerbo and Andrew Snow, who had three and two RBIs respectively.
The Sun Devils bats suddenly woke up as ASU pushed across nine runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Key hits in the inning came from R.J. Ybarra, who had a RBI single, and Dalton Dinatale, who added a two-run double. Ybarra went 4-for-4 on the day, topping his previous career-high of three hits, and is now a whopping 6-for-8 in the Phoenix Muni Classic.
“The baseball looks like a beach ball now,” Ybarra said. “I’m stepping into the batters box feeling really good. I’m swinging the bat and things are happening right now.”
His offensive presence seems light years away from what it was at the beginning of the season when he started just 1-for-11 at the plate. Due to his improved approach, his batting average has risen to an absurd .520.
“It was one of those things where I started out one-for-whatever,” Ybarra added, regarding his improvement. “Baseball is a funny game, you just have to keep swinging the bat and the ball will fall in for you. I didn’t make any adjustments, I just stayed to my approach and to my plan.”
ASU improved to 2-1 in the Phoenix Muni Classic and 6-4 on the season with the victory, while Purdue drops under .500 to 4-5.
The Sun Devils will conclude the Phoenix Muni Classic with Ryan Kellogg taking the hill on Saturday.