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Sun Devils stay hot in series victory over national champion Bruins

(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)

After an impressive road series win against No. 8 Oregon State and a resounding win against archrival Arizona, the Arizona State Sun Devils (15-11, 5-4) took two out of three from the defending national champion and No. 14 UCLA Bruins (16-10, 6-3). The series win was the first time in school history that the Sun Devils earned two road series wins against top-15 teams in back-to-back weekends.

On Friday, despite an early two-run lead, the Sun Devils fell to the Bruins, 7-3, as its offense was stymied by Bruins pitcher James Kaprielian. The sophomore right-hander struck out 12 Sun Devil hitters, en route to picking up his fourth win of the year. Freshman shortstop Colby Woodmansee blasted his first home run of his collegiate career to give ASU a 3-1 lead in the second inning, but that was all the offense could muster off Kaprielian. Sophomore pitcher Brett Lilek was not as sharp as he has been all season and lasted only three innings, giving up four runs to a mediocre Bruin offense. The outing was Lilek’s shortest of the season, and his second straight loss.

For as poorly as the Sun Devils looked at the plate on Friday, their confidence was not shaken on Saturday. The Sun Devils rode a five-run fourth inning and added two in the ninth to earn an 8-5 win—the team’s fifth win against a ranked team this year. The resurrection of Jake Peevyhouse continued, as the left fielder notched three doubles in five at-bats. Trever Allen broke out of his recent slide, as well. He went 3-for-5 and blasted his team-leading third home run of the season. Sophomore Ryan Kellogg got the start for ASU, and despite not having his best stuff and allowing ten hits, persevered nevertheless for his third win.

On Sunday, thanks to timely hitting by pinch hitter RJ Ybarra, the Sun Devils earned a 6-5 come-from-behind win. Ybarra had been 0 for his last 13; however all was forgotten, as he laced David Burg’s pitch for a base hit to give the Sun Devils the 10-inning win. Freshman catcher Brian Serven blasted his first collegiate home run in the sixth inning to give ASU its first run of the game. Junior Darin Gillies turned in a respectable Sunday outing, going six innings and allowing three runs. Closer Ryan Burr was dominant once again. The sophomore earned his second win of the season, throwing 2.2 innings and striking out five.

That was the gist; here are the details.

Player of the Series:

Right fielder Jake Peevyhouse was deserving of the honor last week, but first baseman Nate Causey could not seem to make an out. Nevertheless, Peevyhouse would not be denied, as his strong showing in UCLA gives him this week’s “Player of the Series.”

Disregarding Peevyhouse’s 0-for-4 showing on Friday since the entire Sun Devil lineup was silenced, Peevyhouse was stellar once again at the plate. On Friday, the junior outfielder became the first Sun Devil since 2011 to tally three doubles in a single game. Peevyhouse also laced another two-bagger in Sunday’s game. Peevyhouse has hiked his once awful batting average to .264, and leads the team with a .429 (9-for-21) average in Pac-12 play.

Biggest Concern:

There isn’t much to complain about after taking two of three from the defending national champions. With that being said, for the sake of striving for progress and avoiding the trap of complacency, we must identify this week’s “Biggest Concern.”

It may have simply been a product of a pitcher who has been unhittable as of late, but regardless, the Sun Devils looked overwhelmed by UCLA ace James Kaprielian on Friday.

ASU hitters struck out 12 times against Kaprielian, and 16 times on the entire evening. Seven Sun Devil hitters, including Johnny Sewald, Drew Stankiewicz, Nate Causey, RJ Ybarra, Brian Serven, Chris Beall and Colby Woodmansee, struck out twice. Put the ball in play and good things will happen.

Unsung Hero:

There is little to nothing “unsung” about names such as Ryan Burr, Brett Lilek or Ryan Kellogg. But at times, their performances are. Thus, the performance that sophomore pitcher Kellogg delivered on Saturday is awarded with this week’s recognition.

It was obvious from the outset that Kellogg did not have his best stuff. But part of what makes Kellogg so dominant is his ability to perform at a high level without generating a high number of strikeouts or making hitters look foolish. When the strikeouts are there, he is nearly untouchable. Kellogg’s impeccable command (eerily resembling that of Cliff Lee) was on display yet again on Saturday, as he has now not walked a batter in 14 1/3 innings. And despite allowing ten hits, Kellogg held the Sun Devil lead in tact to earn his third win.

Stat of the Series:

39-43 and 8-15.

Not so much a “stat of [this] series,” but a stat nevertheless. After not only weathering, but dominating, the brunt of its schedule, Arizona State will now enjoy a long homestand of winnable games. The Sun Devils host eight straight games over the next two weeks. The team will face the likes of USC, Arizona and Cal—teams that have a combined 39-43 overall record and an 8-15 conference record. Sun Devil baseball is clicking at the right time, and based on the success of the teams on its upcoming schedule, that trend is likely to continue.

What’s next?

The Sun Devils have four days off before they host the University of Southern California (13-13, 3-6) for a three game weekend series. The matchup features two teams going in opposite directions, as ASU has won five of its last six and USC has lost three straight.

You can reach Jacob Garcia on Twitter @Jake_M_Garcia or via email at

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