(Photo: Allyson Cummings/WCSN)
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The No. 19 Arizona State Sun Devil baseball team earned a 12-1 victory in the rubber match against the Baylor Bears thanks to a nine-run offensive onslaught in the sixth inning.
“You don’t see a lot of one-to-one games in the sixth on a Sunday,” head coach Tim Esmay said, “And then all of a sudden for us to go out there and have those great at-bats and score nine—it was a relentless attack by our guys and I was very proud of them.”
Second baseman Tucker Esmay led the charge with three hits on the afternoon. One of them was a seven pitch at-bat that resulted in a two-run single, effectively ending the day of Baylor starting pitcher Austin Stone.
The Sun Devils would not stop there. Centerfielder Johnny Sewald gapped a two-RBI triple and RBI singles from third baseman Dalton DiNatale and catcher Brian Serven (who now has three hits in five at-bats) allowed the potent Sun Devil offense to reach the seven-run mark for the third game in a row.
The preseason focus had been predominantly on the talented group of starting pitchers; however, the Sun Devil offense was clicking on all cylinders.
“Don’t count our offense out,” Esmay said, “Our offense is a grind-it-out type offense. Our offense will fight you; they’ll have great at-bats; and they’ll see some pitches.”
After earning a 7-4 win on Saturday behind a solid, yet strenuous bullpen performance, the Sun Devil bullpen pitched five innings today. However, today, it was stress-free.
Sophomore lefty Brett Lilek amassed 7 strikeouts on four innings of work and only surrendered two hits, as he had dominant control all afternoon, established his power fastball early, and kept Baylor hitters off-balance with his off-speed pitches.
“I felt pretty good, pretty confident and loose. I got to see what Ryan [Burr] and [Ryan] Kellogg did the past two outings. So I knew if I just did what they did, I’d put my team in a good place to win. I was ready to go out for another inning. But right now it’s early in the season. I know they [the coaches] just want to take it easy and keep us healthy. Right now, it’s just getting us innings and just getting us ready for the Pac-12.”
Esmay featured a different lineup for the third straight day, underscoring the fierce position battles in the infield and the great luxury of a deep and experienced bench.
“If you look at it,” Esmay said, “Everyone who had an opportunity performed. So they’re still battling. I thought the guys who played yesterday, Bilbrey and Aboites played well. I thought Tucker played well. It’s something that I haven’t had here in a while, as far as having the depth. And so I got to trust that and give those guys opportunities.”
Baylor’s starter Austin Stone struggled to find the zone early on, allowing four walks in his first two innings.
As the age-old trend goes: walks lead to errors as the defense starts to strain over long, tedious innings. Today’s game was no different. The Bears were plagued by three errors—the first, a Lawton Langford bobble at second base, gave the Sun Devils a 1-0 lead in the second.
After that, Stone settled down and turned in a respectable 4.1 innings, allowing no earned runs.
Stone’s offense would salvage a no-decision for him, as they knotted the game at one run apiece in the top of the sixth when third baseman Duncan Wendel singled to score Langford.
Yet the Sun Devil offense would seal the game by batting-around for nine hits in the sixth inning, giving Baylor reliever Kyle Ott the loss.
Pinch hitter Cooper Esmay, a five-foot-nine true freshman and brother of Tucker Esmay, added a moonshot RBI double for his first hit in his first at-bat as a Sun Devil. Not to be outdone, Zach Cerbo, also five-foot-nine true freshman, tripled home Joey Bielek to end the onslaught at 12 runs.
Right-handed senior relief pitcher Zak Miller notched the win, continuing the bullpen dominance that he showcased last season.
After taking two of three from Baylor, the Sun Devils will host New Mexico on Tuesday before embarking on a seven-game road trip.
You can reach Jacob Garcia on Twitter @jake3garcia or via email at Jacob.M.Garcia@asu.edu