Facing its most important game to date, no one was sure how Arizona State would respond to a must-win situation in Friday's series opener at USC. But boy, did everybody sure find out quickly.
The Sun Devils hung a five spot on the home team in the top of the first, an inning highlighted by back-to-back home runs from Colby Woodmansee and Joey Bielek. They would go on to more than double that total by the end of the night, shocking the Trojans in an 11-3 blowout win Friday night.
It wasn't as comfortable early on as the final score may make it seem. USC got on the board with a leadoff home run in the second inning from Timmy Robinson, and it cut the deficit to 5-2 a couple of innings later. That frame, however, could have been much worse if it wasn't for a spectacular performance from reliever Darin Gillies.
After starting pitcher Brett Lilek walked the bases loaded with just one out, Gillies got the call from the bullpen in the fourth inning. The right-hander was able to get out of the jam with just one run crossing the plate, and he would go on to work five full innings before the night was over.
Meanwhile, USC starter Kyle Davis put together quite the performance himself after a cataclysmic opening frame. He worked five consecutive scoreless innings after that, and the maroon and gold would not plate another run until after he was pulled in the seventh.
That was when the visitors from Tempe decided to break it open. An RBI double off the bat of David Greer in the seventh made it a 6-3 ballgame, and three more runs in the eighth would erase any doubt on the pending outcome.
At that point it was time to work on gaining some style points to impress the NCAA Tournament selection committee, and Arizona State did not fail at that either. A pair of ninth inning RBI singles from Woodmansee and Dalton DiNatale got the club into double digits on the scoreboard, and a strong performance out of the bullpen from Eric Melbostad in the bottom half of the frame stranded two runners without letting in a run.
The Sun Devils did all of this without the services of catcher Brian Serven, who is currently resting at home with a bulging disk in his back. He hopes to make the trip up I-10 before Sunday's ballgame so he can at least play once more before the postseason begins, but whether that will happen or not remains to be seen. Sophomore Zach Cerbo went one for five at the plate tonight in his place.
Gillies (3-5) ended up being credited with a much deserved win, while Davis (3-2) took the loss. Arizona State now sits at 34-19 (18-10), and finds itself alone in third place in the Pac-12.
The victory, and the loud fashion in which it came, should certainly make an impression on the committee, which will have one more game to evaluate both teams before deciding which (if any) will host a regional next weekend when the postseason begins.
That game will start at 4:00 PM tomorrow, and junior southpaw Ryan Kellogg is slated to get the start on the mound for Tracy Smith's club. Once again, the matchup will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.