(Photo: Dominic Cotroneo/WCSN)
Arizona State rode seventh inning back-to-back home runs to a 7-4 victory over the Clemson Tigers to move into the winners bracket in the Fullerton regional.
The Sun Devils’ bats were stymied by ACC pitcher of the year Matthew Crownover until the seventh inning, when Joey Bielek and Brian Serven each connected for home runs off of the junior left-hander.
Crownover had the ASU bats off balance for most of the game. Trever Allen’s solo home run was the only damage done against the junior left-hander prior to the seventh inning. The senior Allen has caught fire as of late, going 12 for his last 23 with three home runs.
Tracy Smith opted to start Ryan Kellogg over Brett Lilek, who was expected to get the nod, and Smith’s move paid dividends for the Sun Devils. Kellogg threw seven strong innings, similar to many of his other consistent outings on the season.
He struck out six and allowed only two runs while overcoming command problems (four walks) to keep ASU in the game. A two run single by Andrew Cox in the fifth inning was the only blemish off of Kellogg.
ASU was able to use the home run ball, something they have not done often, to come back and take control of the game. Bielek has hit all three of his home runs in the last two weeks, while Serven missed the final series of the regular season, but showed no signs of slowing down by hitting his sixth home run of the season.
Allen also added another extra base hit, a two-run triple, to give the Sun Devils a pair of insurance runs in the eighth inning. Colby Woodmansee reached on a fielder’s choice to bring home the first insurance run.
The late blooming offense was reflective of most of the season for Arizona State, as they mounted comeback after comeback throughout the regular season and continued the trend in regionals.
Darin Gillies did his job of taking care of business out of the bullpen, preserving the lead during his 1 and 2/3 innings of work. The former starter allowed two runs in the ninth inning, but it seems to be made ever clear by Smith that Gillies would be the primary setup man going forward.
Ryan Burr got the final out in the ninth to thwart off the Tigers’ comeback attempt and secure the victory for ASU.
The rotation shakeup likely means Brett Lilek will be on the mound tomorrow as ASU awaits their next opponent. The Sun Devils will face the winner of the Pepperdine vs. Fullerton game with the chance to advance to the regional championship.