ASU's Ryan Kellogg has certainly seen better starts to games throughout his career. Having your first pitch of the afternoon taken over the fence in right center field isn't the best way to open a game, but the junior left-hander was masterful after that.
"I always thought the first pitch of the game was a free strike," Kellogg said. "Apparently not anymore."
Kellogg settled in and ended up working eight innings, striking out four and only giving up two runs. The pitching staff got tremendous support for the second consecutive game as the Sun Devil lineup combined for 13 hits on the day.
The maroon and gold pulled even with Gonzaga in the third inning after Johnny Sewald started things off with a single into the gap. He then stole second and scored a couple of batters later on a base hit back up the middle from Colby Woodmansee.
Back at it again was ASU in the following frame. A fielding error by the Bulldog first baseman allowed Dalton DiNatale to reach safely to start the rally, and Jake Peevyhouse moved him into a scoring position with a one out single. Brian Serven then loaded the bases with a single of his own, and Jordan Aboites brought in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly that was just deep enough to bring in DiNatale. Gonzaga was lucky to escape any further damage as Peevyhouse was easily tagged out trying to score on a ball that barely got away from the catcher.
The Bulldogs threatened in their half of the fifth, getting the tying run all the way to third with only one out. Kellogg remained calm and carefully placed his pitches and eventually retired the next two batters to get out of the jam.
The Sun Devils carried the momentum earned out in the field up to the plate and got back-to-back singles from Sewald and Ryan Lillard to start the bottom of the fifth. Woodmansee then hit a sharp ball to the hot corner that Gonzaga third baseman Mitchell Gunsolus was unable to handle, loading the bases and giving designated hitter R.J. Ybarra a chance to break the game wide open. Instead, Ybarra grounded into a double play, one of three they would hit into on the day, scoring the run but keeping the Bulldogs in the game.
DiNatale kept the inning alive with a long double into the corner in right field, scoring Lillard to make the score 4-1. It looked as if he could have stretched it into a triple, but head coach Tracy Smith put up the stop sign as he didn't want the final out to be made at third base. It would end up being the next batter, Trever Allen, that made the third out, grounding weakly to second.
The home team added one more run in the bottom of the sixth, but the Bulldogs answered with a Tyler Frost solo shot to leadoff the seventh. Kellogg retired the rest of the side in order and would end up being pulled after a scoreless frame in the eighth. He ended the day with 111 pitches, getting the win to improve his record to 3-0 on the season.
The Gonzaga bullpen dominated in its final two innings of work, but Kellogg was in such a groove that any thoughts of a comeback were futile. The maroon and gold ended up cruising to a 5-2 victory and are now 7-4 on the year. They finished with a 3-1 record in the inaugural Phoenix Muni Classic.
"We just need to keep moving the needle in the positive direction," coach Smith said when asked about the team's progress after three weeks of play. "There are no fairy tales in sports where we move into a new place and it's just going to happen overnight. It's a process."
Next up for ASU is an exhibition game on Tuesday against the Arizona Diamondbacks, and while the team wants to be competitive, the main goal will be staying healthy.
"We are already a little thin," Smith said. "I think it is going to be fun, but we're not looking at it like we want to go lay one on the Diamondbacks. We are going to try and stay healthy and look at some other guys that haven't had a chance to pitch or play."
First pitch is scheduled for 3:10 PM from Salt River Fields in Scottsdale.