Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the second of the inning, Jordan Aboites stepped to the plate for the Sun Devils with runners on second and third. In an already very offensive game, everyone in the ballpark knew that runners stranded on base would likely decide the game.
Aboites did his job, jumping on a pitch with a blast to deep right center field. Both runners would score on the 2 RBI triple and the maroon and gold would never trail again. But this was just the start of a big game for the junior.
Oklahoma State got its first two batters aboard against reliever Darin Gillies to open the sixth inning, and head coach Tracy Smith called upon the second baseman Aboites to get Arizona State (2-0) out of the jam. Aboites struck out the first batter he faced, then coaxed a pair of fly outs from each of the next two hitters to keep a two run cushion between the two teams.
It is clear that Smith is still battling with who to throw in different situations in regards to his bullpen.
"Sometimes I'll even turn to one of our players in the dugout and ask what they think of a guy," he said.
Starting pitcher Ryan Kellogg worked five full innings against the Cowboys, giving up three runs on seven hits. He also struck out four. The visitors from Stillwater creeped back into the game in the fourth inning when they opened the frame with a bunt single and double to left field. Third baseman Kevin Bradley flied out to center field, but the ball was hit deep enough to score the runner from third. Kellogg did a great job after that of escaping more damage, getting leadoff man Gage Green to pop out and leave a pair of Cowboys in scoring position.
From that point on, both defenses dominated. Corey Hassell got aboard on a one-out double in the top of the seventh, and Conor Costello reached first safety on an error by Dalton Dinatale over at third. Aboites worked out of it, serving up a taylormade double play ball that the Sun Devils' middle infield took care of.
Things started to get away from Aboites in the eighth inning. Oklahoma State put the tying run aboard thanks to a couple of singles, and while the second baseman-turned-pitcher was able to get two outs, coach Smith decided to go to the bullpen. As Johnny Cash's "God's Gonna Cut You Down" blared over the loudspeaker, ASU fans knew that it was closing time. Ryan Burr entered the game with some confidence after getting the win last night, but he did walk the first man he faced on a full count to load the bases.
It looked like the Cowboys might get one run in when the next batter hit a liner in between the hole at first and second, but Christopher Beall made a great diving stop on the ball. He threw sidearmed while still on the ground to Burr covering at first. The throw beat the batter by half a step, and just like that, the threat was erased.
"When you hear that song, you know it's over," said Aboites when asked about Burr's stellar performance out of the pen.
There was not nearly as much drama in the ninth. Burr got the first two Cowboys he faced to go down on strikes, and the game ended on a Jon Littell groundout to short. The save was Burr's 25th as a Sun Devil, which ties a program record.
Outside of the play by Aboites, ASU had a very balanced attack at the plate. Jake Peevyhouse, R.J. Ybarra, and Dinatale each recorded one RBI on the afternoon. Kellogg got the win for the Sun Devils, while Oklahoma State reliever Tyler Buffett took the loss.
Arizona State is now 2-0 on the season and will go for the sweep tomorrow. Right-hander Darin Gillies will get the start for the 12:30 p.m. first pitch.