The Sun Devils pitching really never got going, except for a few guys in the bullpen. ASU is in desperate need of consistency on the mound.
Despite scoring 26 runs over the weekend against Bethune-Cookman, the pitching staff could not find much rhythm in the opening series. There we some flashes of dominance in the bullpen, but flashes are not going to cut it when the starting pitching struggles.
Ace Trevor Williams took the mound on Friday night, but he did not look like his usual self. The preseason All-American and Golden Spikes Player of the Year Candidate tossed only five innings of work and allowed three runs to score, two of them earned.
Williams needs to be Mr. Reliable in the rotation because the entire Arizona State staff needs him to consistently work into the seventh inning because it has such a young and inexperienced bullpen.
After head coach Tim Esmay pulled Williams from the game, he went with two hard throwing freshmen to keep the game alive for ASU. Ryan Burr threw heat and it paid off, as he struck out three Wildcats and only allowed two base runners in his two innings of work.
The surprise of the first game was seeing freshman Brett Lilek come in for three innings of work. The left-hander allowed the tying run to score in the ninth inning due to a wild pitch and he also clunked a batter that same inning. Lilek looked very nervous on the mound, which was unlike anything we saw during spring practice. But can we blame him for struggling in his first appearance? He is only a freshman.
It was an interesting coaching decision by Esmay to send out the freshman instead of a proven Matt Dunbar. Dunbar closed the game in the eleventh inning with ease to record his first win of the season.
Unfortunately, the Sun Devils only saw things get worse on the mound on Saturday and Sunday.
Starters Adam McCreery and Darin Gillies combined for four innings pitched, allowed eleven runs to cross home plate, and they gave up ten walks. Ten walks is unacceptable from Arizona State's pitching staff.
ASU won 15-7 on Saturday and they should thank another young arm, Ryan Kellogg, for bailing the team out of danger. Kellogg was the third freshman to appear in as many hours and he dominated in the spotlight. In his first collegiate appearance, he threw four innings of shutout baseball, had a four-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio, and picked up the win. To give you a comparison, Kellogg allowed fewer base runners than Trevor Williams, holding batters to a .200 batting average.
Lilek continued his struggles on the mound Sunday afternoon. He entered the game in the sixth inning with the Sun Devils down two runs and allowed another run to score.
He had similar control issues as he walked three batters and threw another wild pitch in his three innings of work. The only bright news is that though he looked sloppy and did not record a strikeout in his first weekend as a Sun Devil, he did record eight of his outs via groundouts so that shows he is trying to keep the ball low in the zone.
Senior reliever Alex Blackford pitched decent, but not fantastic. In the four innings he pitched after replacing Gillies on Sunday, he struck out three batters and only gave up one run. It is a tough task to come into the game with runners on base in the second inning because the starting pitching did not do his job of eating up innings. Gillies only recorded three total outs before he took a seat in the dugout after throwing one plus inning.
Seven Wildcats recorded RBI's this past weekend in route to their 18 runs scored. With the Sun Devils taking on an SEC opponent in Tennessee this weekend, they cannot afford to struggle that much in Knoxville.
Fortunately, the maroon and gold's bats stayed hot for most of the weekend, but the team needs to sweep the series when they put up 26 runs. Everyone this weekend was asking, "pitching, where are you?"
The Sun Devils will get a chance to buckle down on the bump starting Friday night at 3 p.m.