It's nearly impossible to defend a well-executed squeeze play. But when the bunt goes right back to the pitcher, oftentimes it just means bad news for the offense.
ASU twice saw a rally killed by failed squeeze plays and despite only allowing five hits, Oregon State's fifth came in the ninth inning and turned out to be the game-winner. ASU dropped its Pac-12 opener to the Beavers 1-0.
"I'll go back tonight and probably won't sleep tonight going geez, you should have let him swing," coach Tracy Smith said. "If it's done properly, we walk in. We just didn't execute."
ASU had a golden opportunity in the bottom of the seventh when it loaded the bases with only one out in a scoreless game. Zach Cerbo was called upon to pinch hit for Ryan Lillard and got the sign to squeeze bunt.
RJ Ybarra broke for home on the pitch and Cerbo laid it down. The ball hopped right to the pitcher Andrew Moore, who flipped home to catcher Logan Ice, who turned and fired down to first base to complete the 1-2-3 double play to end the inning.
An inning later in the eighth, a failed squeeze played killed the ASU's scoring push again. With David Greer on third base with one out, Joey Bielek dropped down a safety squeeze to the first-base side of the pitcher's mound. This time it was pitcher Luke Heimlich who cut down the Sun Devil at the plate. Colby Woodmansee grounded out in the next at-bat to end the inning.
"Those plays work, you look like a genius, the plays don't, you look like a fool," Smith said. "I'll certainly sit here and wear it because those were my decisions."
Smith pointed out the wind was blowing in hard from the outfield, knocking down fly balls all night. Smith said he wasn't confident a fly ball would have the carry to score Ybarra from third and was playing for one run.
"Nine-point-nine times out of 10 we're not going to do it in that situation," Smith said of the first squeeze. "I was playing the conditions a little bit."
Then in the top of the ninth, an inning after the second failed bunt, Oregon State got its karmic jackpot. After escaping two rallies, it was rewarded with two runners on base with two outs in the ninth.
With ASU closer Ryan Burr pitching with a full count, pinch runner Joey Jansen took off from second and came around to score on a single up the middle by Caleb Hamilton. The one run was all the Beavers needed to take the Pac-12 opener.
Last week ASU moved right-hander Seth Martinez to the Friday night role, and thrived in his second featured outing, shutting out the Beavers on four hits, three walks and three strikeouts. He went a career-best eight innings.
"It's a shame when you get a pitching performance like that and can't take advantage of it," Smith said. "You cant dwell on it. You do that and you'll be 0-3 by the end of the weekend."
Martinez allowed all his hits through five innings and was nearly perfect in his final three. An error was the only blemish through his final 11 hitters. He finished with 107 pitches, 71 for strikes.
"Probably about the fourth inning, the ball started coming out really well and I was in the groove," Martinez said. "We still have two more, se we still got this."
ASU and Oregon State play the second game of the series Saturday at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.