(Photo: Dominic Cotroneo/WCSN)
In Tuesday night’s 7-5 win over in-state rival Arizona, players filling unconventional roles turned out to be the difference maker.
On the mound, it was Jordan Aboites, who isn’t unheralded by any means but has only appeared in four games, who stepped up to fuel the all-around performance by the Sun Devils.
It was the early production, though, from the Arizona State lineup that helped Aboites calm his nerves and keep the implications of the game in check.
The Sun Devils scored two runs in the first frame, followed by two more runs in the next half-inning.
“Any pitcher wants run support like that,” Aboites said. “To have it early just kind of allowed me to relax and go out there and do my thing without having to worry about tie game or zero-zero game or anything like that.”
He tossed 5.1 innings of two-run ball, giving up four hits and two walks while striking out three.
“Any time you get runs early on it allows your pitcher to settle in and be a little but more aggressive in the zone,” head coach Tracy Smith said. “We’ve not had a lot of that this year, where our guys can pitch comfortably because we haven’t had a lot of big leads. It seems like every pitch means something.
“It was finally nice to see us be able to send a pitcher out there and pitch with a lead.”
For the offense, the runs came about as consistent as they have all season – in all but three innings, the Sun Devils saw a runner cross the plate.
Colby Woodmansee lead the charge, driving in two runs and walking once on a 2-for-3 night at the plate.
“That was the fun part to see,” Smith said. “That you get a run and you’re threatening every inning. I don’t want to keep sounding like a broken record but we haven’t seen a lot of that this year.”
After Smith elected to pull Aboites, Smith decided to send James Ryan to the mound. The freshman Ryan was tagged to the tune of three earned runs in three innings.
However, it was Ryan’s composure with Bobby Dalbec at the plate and a runner on second and third in the sixth that garnered some praise from Smith.
“Came in there with a good fastball, 91-92,” Smith said. “I think they had second and third at that time, the game was definitely still in the balance, and for him to come in there and make those pitches and be aggressive in the zone, with good stuff, he ran out of gas I think after the second inning for him, but we’re extending guys, we’re using guys in untraditional roles, so I’m happy that they lay it out there.”
For the Sun Devils, this weekend’s series with California could be an opportunity to right the ship and continue trending in the right direction as far as the conference is concerned. Tonight was a big step forward.