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Inability to convert hits to runs dooms Sun Devils in Sunday loss to Washington

(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)

The tough losses seem to keep mounting for the Arizona State Sun Devils (9-8) a month into the season. Sunday afternoon’s 4-3 defeat in 11 innings to the Washington Huskies may have been the toughest.

The Sun Devils battled back from two down in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game and send it to extra innings, though Andrew Ely’s solo home run in the 11th gave the Huskies the permanent 4-3 lead to seal their series victory.

Ely’s solo shot was one of just five Washington hits on the day, four of which came against ASU starter Darin Gillies.

Gillies threw six innings while surrendering three runs, though none were earned. He also struck out six in the no decision.

ASU reliever Eric Melbostad came on in relief in the seventh and threw two scoreless innings. Ryan Burr entered the game in the ninth and blanked the Huskies for two innings before allowing the home run to Ely. Burr was handed the loss, his second of the season.

Arizona State head coach Tim Esmay applauded his team’s effort on the mound, though it was the lack of timely hitting from the lineup that doomed his Sun Devils in the Sunday’s series finale.

“We pitched well enough to win today, what hurts is 10 hits and only three runs. That’s just not getting the job done,” Esmay said. “(We had) quality at-bats early; where’d they go?”

Christopher Beall led off the ninth for ASU with a solo home run to cut the lead to 3-2. Drew Stankiewicz, making his return from a wrist injury, walked and reached third base following a sacrifice bunt and single before scoring on Jake Peevyhouse’s sacrifice fly to tie the game.

Stankiewicz shared the team lead with two hits and also reached base on a walk in his return to the lineup. The loss, especially given the way in which it happened, was not how he had hoped his return would pan out, though.

“From a mental standpoint, I’m pretty disoriented right now, just pretty bummed that we lost that game. It kind of knocked the wind out of me and my team,” a frustrated Stankiewicz said.

Peevyhouse entered the ballgame in the top half of the ninth to play right field after Trever Allen pulled himself from the field. Coach Esmay said he likely left the game due to dehydration and should be fine.

Sun Devils reliever Eder Erives also suffered an injury, his occurring when he was warming up after coming in to replace Gillies in the seventh inning. Esmay said he hadn’t spoken to the trainer in detail yet about the injury, but was relieved to know it is a shoulder issue and has nothing to do with the broken arm Erives suffered last season.

The Huskies got on the board just three batters into the game on Robert Pehl’s double that scored Braden Bishop. Branden Berry singled two batters later to score Pehl and extend early the lead to two.

Arizona State answered in their half of the first when R.J. Ybarra singled in Nate Causey for the lone run that Washington starter Jeff Brigham would allow. He surrendered six hits in five innings and struck out three.

Trevor Dunlap blew the save for the Huskies, though he rebounded with hitless 10th and 11th innings as he would nonetheless earn the victory after throwing 3.1 innings to finish the ballgame.

The Sun Devils now sit just a game above .500, which is a step behind where the team would like to be at this point in the season. That doesn’t mean anybody is panicking, however.

“Obviously it didn’t go our way today, it’s baseball. We still (have) so many more games. I know it’s just the little obstacles we’re trying to overcome right now, but no doubt in my mind that later on down on the road we’ll be fine,” Stankiewicz said.

Following an effort on Saturday that attracted criticism from coach Esmay, ASU rebounded and showed the toughness he asks for everyday out on the field.

“These kids are playing their tails off and we’re just getting a lot of unfortunate, immature at-bats. That’s one of those things where we gotta stay with the process,” Esmay said of rebounding from the string tough losses early in the season. “Our guys gotta stay with the process and keep rolling with this thing because it’s way too early to start giving up on guys or giving up on where we’re going because there’s a lot that can happen here now.”

What will it take to turn things around for the Sun Devils and get them back on the winning side of these close games? Not much, according to Esmay.

“It’s there, the ingredients are all there,” he said. “What’s gonna turn it around is stringing some more quality at-bats together and hitting when guys are on base.”

Arizona State gets right back at it with their first chance to turn it around this week when Wichita State comes to Tempe for a two-game series slated for Tuesday and Wednesday.

Tuesday’s first pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. The game’s starters have yet to be announced.

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