Arizona State vs. Bethune-Cookman: Devils stumble early, drop series finale, 7-6

Jason Wise - ASU Athletics

The Sun Devils may have already had the series locked up but Sunday proved to be a bit of a setback.

The Sun Devils came up just short of their third consecutive come-from-behind victory Sunday with Bethune-Cookman taking the final game of their season-opening series, 7-6.

The Devils issued 10 walks to the visiting Wildcats including six from starter Darin Gillies. Gillies (0-1) was pulled for Alex Blackford before getting a single out in the second following five consecutive free passes.

"We've all had those innings," said Blackford on Gillies' shaky season debut. "It's really tough when you're out there on the mound and you can't find your stuff."

Thrust into a desperate-yet-familiar position that he's encountered many times already as a senior, Blackford responded by giving the Devils four innings of one-run ball. But when the visitors are already up 5-0 before they register their first hit, comebacks can be hard to come by.

"It's an easy game," said Blackford. "You catch the ball, you throw the ball to first base. You throw strikes where the glove is...I think we're making it too tough on ourselves."

To their credit, the Devils did battle back valiantly. After scrapping across a run in each of the second and third innings, Michael Benjamin's fourth inning line drive plated two more to cut the deficit to two. Three innings later with Bethune-Cookman's run total sitting at seven, Max Rossiter was assisted by the Tempe sun as his fly ball landed in deep right field to score two more. That's where the scoring would end though with Jordan Dailey pitching 2.1 scoreless innings to give the Wildcats their first victory of the season.

Even though the series was already locked up for Arizona State, Blackford still acknowledged that dropping the final game is always unacceptable.

"Sundays [are] where you win in college baseball," said Blackford. "Friday and Saturday night are important but Sunday is where you win the [Pac-12], where you win the series usually, where you win the regionals...it's tough to come out with the loss but we'll get them next time."

The Devils (2-1) now have the middle of the week off before heading to Knoxville to take on the Volunteers in a three-game series. First pitch Friday is scheduled for 3 p.m. MT with Saturday and Sunday's games beginning at 11 a.m.

Other Notes:

- For the third straight game, manager Tim Esmay gave a large relief workload to a freshman pitcher. This time, the lucky individual was Brett Lilek, who put up the same numbers that he did Friday (three innings pitched, one run allowed in both). Clearly Esmay realizes he'll have to lean on these young men heavily as his bullpen continues to shake out so expect large workloads for Lilek, along with Ryan Kellogg and Ryan Burr, all season long.

- Rouric Bridgewater was clearly upset about his 0-for-5 performance Friday and came out Sunday with a vengeance. The sophomore first baseman went 2-for-4 with two runs all while offering some impressive nimbleness around the bag. With David Graybill also holding his own Saturday, it's looking like fans might not have to worry about who's on first after all.
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