All things considered, the Arizona State baseball team had an impressive weekend in Surprise. Trevor Williams threw a complete game, the Devils defeated the No. 2 team in the country twice, and the infield made great strides in the field.
However, the eighth inning of the tie against Gonzaga will resonate sourly in the stomachs of each player on Coach Esmay’s squad until they face off against Long Beach State on Friday.
As head coach Tim Esmay put it, “I thought our kids played well. Other than one inning.”
The inning seemed to discredit the gains made in fielding over the weekend. Despite averaging two errors per game in the previous six games, ASU committed only 1.25 errors per game at the Coca-Cola Classic. Had Michael Benjamin not committed a pair of game-changing errors in the top of the eighth against Gonzaga, not only would ASU likely have won the game, it would have only averaged .75 errors per game on the weekend.
That same inning also seemed to raise questions about bullpen consistency. Despite Matt Dunbar and Alex Blackford having to pitch through two errors, the pair combined for two walks and a hit by pitch, allowing Gonzaga to score five runs on just three hits and surge back from a seemingly insurmountable deficit.
Dunbar’s performance was reminiscent of the bottom of the ninth in the series finale at Tennessee, when he brought the tying run to the plate after walking three straight.
Nevertheless, Coach Esmay was still impressed with Dunbar and sees his performance as a positive to take away from the weekend.
“Dunbar made pitches and got ground ball outs, and we should be out of there with a 5-1 ballgame,” he said.
Takeaways from the Coca-Cola Classic:
Hitting for power
The Sun Devils proved that they can hit for power. Both Kasey Coffman and Trever Allen cranked solo shots on Sunday (a feat made more impressive in the slightly larger Surprise Stadium), with Allen’s home run locking up the tie against Gonzaga. Power hitting is a good sign moving forward, knowing that one swing of the bat can bring the Sun Devils back into a game.
The sophomore left-hander pitched his best outing of the year on Sunday, going five innings, surrendering just one run, and striking out four. In his first start against Bethune-Cookman, he went just three innings and gave up six runs, leading many to believe he would not be considered for future starts.
Trevor Williams can go the distance
The junior right-hander went five and seven innings in his first two starts against Bethune-Cookman and Tennessee mainly due to high pitch counts. On Friday against Pacific, Williams threw his first complete game of the season, striking out eight in a dominant performance in which he gave up the only run in the ninth inning.
Coach Esmay knows something we don’t
The skipper was questioned early last week after announcing that Trevor Williams would not start against Arkansas in efforts to keep him on six days of rest. When it was all said and done, ASU beat Arkansas both times without Williams and he still had an incredible start of his own.
Benjamin’s Hit Streak
The third baseman’s poor fielding culminated Sunday with a pair of errors in the eighth that allowed Gonzaga to climb back into the game. Fortunately, Benjamin’s team-leading nine-game hit streak and overall consistent production from the bottom of the order has kept him in the starting lineup.