(Photo: ASU Athletics)
Going into the first weekend of May, No. 8 Arizona State found itself third in the Pac-12 and 3.5 games back of the conference leader, No. 11 Oregon, with a realistic chance at taking the conference title. The Sun Devils had just come off a sweep at Utah and were 13-4 in their last 17 games. Once Stanford took two of three at Packard Stadium this weekend, however, their odds certainly decreased and they wound up in fourth place, 5.5 games back of the Ducks.
ASU hoped to come out guns blazing against a Stanford team that lost three games to Oregon last weekend and earned an easy midweek victory against sub-.500 Saint Mary’s. Cardinal ace Mark Appel (8-3, 1.56 ERA) had other ideas.
The potential first overall pick of the upcoming MLB Draft threw 122 pitches over 7.2 innings while only giving up five hits, three runs (two earned) and one walk. Appel’s shining statistic in his eighth win of the season was his 13 strikeouts. He retired the order three separate times during his performance.
Arizona State ace Trevor Williams (5-4, 3.60) could not match Appel’s act, going six innings and surrendering nine hits, five runs (all earned) and three walks, as Williams took the loss.
Friday’s loss set the tone for Saturday’s game, which again saw the Stanford pitchers outdueling Arizona State during crunch time. Freshman Ryan Kellogg (10-0, 2.80) could not reverse the Sun Devils’ fortunes as his seven innings of work was not enough, giving up nine hits, seven runs (all earned) and two walks.
Although Stanford starter Daniel Starwalt was unable to get the win, reliever Sam Lindquist was strong; Lindquist pitched the final 4.1 innings of the 11-frame game and earned his second win of the year.
What plagued the Sun Devils the first two games of the series was offensive consistency. In the first game, the team never had a lead; when the Sun Devils are losing after six innings, they are 2-11. In the second game, they had a 7-4 lead after six innings; they are 23-3-1 in those cases. The Sun Devils also have an 0-6 record in extra innings.
Of course, that’s not to say the Sun Devils are struggling at the plate. In the third game of the series, ASU exploded for eight runs in the second inning, aided by back-to-back-to-back home runs from Max Rossiter, RJ Ybarra and Trever Allen. The latter of the three, Allen, had the best series statistically. He went 7-for-13 with three runs and six RBIs while increasing his batting average 18 points to .338. And one factor that helps Allen is the man that bats before him, Ybarra, has reached base safely in 21 consecutive games.
As long as the Sun Devils can heat up down the stretch here in May, they should not have a problem staying in the hunt for the Pac-12 title.