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Sun Devils top the Shockers behind strong play from freshmen

(Photo: ASU Athletics)

With March Madness fast approaching, it is not uncommon to hear Dick Vitale raving about Diaper Dandies from Kansas and Duke at the top of his lungs. Yet on Tuesday night, it was not the freshman sensations on the hardwood who turned in the dazzling performances.

Arizona State’s Seth Martinez, right-handed true freshman pitcher, fired four dominant innings, and freshman catcher Brian Serven drove in a career-high three runs to lead the Sun Devils (10-8) to a 9-5 win over the Wichita State Shockers (11-7).

In the first appearance of his collegiate career, Martinez struck out six and limited a potent Shockers lineup to only three hits and one run in his four frames of work.

“[I was] really nervous,” Martinez said. “But all the preparation gave us confidence. [Pitching coach Ken Knutson] was excellent with the pitch calls and I had a lot of confidence in Serven to block my breaking ball.”

Martinez’s lone blemish came in the third inning, with the Sun Devils already leading 3-0 on a two-out single from first baseman Casey Gillaspie. It was his 19th RBI of the season, and his 3-for-4 effort at the plate was his 10th multi-hit game of the year.

But the night belonged to Martinez, as he collected himself and proceeded to strike out three of the next four batters.

“For his first college outing, Seth was tremendous,” catcher Brian Serven said. “He was really disciplined on the mound just throwing strikes, going in and out, especially with his slider.”

After criticism for failing to deliver in clutch at-bats and convert with runners in scoring position, the Sun Devils put that notion to rest Tuesday night.

Six Sun Devil batters had multi-hit games, and three had two or more RBIs. Serven accomplished both feats.

The catcher vaulted the Sun Devils out to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning, as his two-RBI single plated center fielder Johnny Sewald and designated hitter RJ Ybarra.

“You don’t really change mentalities because you don’t want to press,” Serven said. “You don’t want to be too upset about struggling. It’s an even keel game. You just stay disciplined at the plate.”

The Sun Devils pushed the lead to 3-0 in the second inning, as Wichita State’s starting pitcher Kris Garnder allowed another despite a close call at the plate. Nevertheless, that would be the end of the day for Gardner, who departed after only 1 2/3 innings.

“There were guys on base every time I came up,” Serven said. “It was just other guys around me getting on base, especially Johnny Sewald at the top and Causey doing well before me.”

A three-run sixth inning by the Shockers featured three base hits and a costly error by Woodmansee at shortstop to tighten the contest at 6-4.

But riding the pitching performance of Martinez and the 14-hit performance of their offense, the Sun Devils would not relinquish any more ground.

Eric Melbostad, Hever Bueno and Jordan Aboites combined efforts on the mound for the final innings, and Drew Stankiewicz’s two-run homerun in the eighth sealed the victory for Arizona State.

The Sun Devils and Shockers will complete their two-game midweek series tomorrow at 6:30. Right-hander Zak Miller (0-0, 13.50 ERA, 2.2 IP) will take the mound for Arizona State and Garrett Brummett (1-0, 6.00 ERA, 6 IP) will start for Wichita State.

You can reach Jacob Garcia on Twitter @Jake_M_Garcia or via email at

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