A truncated Arizona State bullpen fell apart late against California for the second time in two days, this time allowing four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning en route to an 8-6 loss. The defeat marked just the second series loss of the season for the Sun Devils.
Eager to put last night's one-run loss to bed, the maroon and gold drew first blood in the opening frame on an RBI single to the gap in left center by David Greer. Joey Bielek, however, stranded another run 90 feet from home with a three pitch strikeout to end the threat, and the Golden Bears were able to leave the field with a bit of momentum.
They put that momentum to good use in the bottom half of the inning, coming out with an aggressive approach both at the plate and on the basepaths. A two out steal of second ended up getting the runner all the way to third after an errant throw by catcher Brian Serven, and the tying run would come in to score on a single to left field by the next batter.
The home team ended up plating one more in the first via a long double off the bat of Brett Cumberland, but the Sun Devils answered right back in the second with three runs of their own.
Trever Allen got the rally started with a leadoff double, and he would come in to score two batters later with a single from Jake Peevyhouse. Two more base knocks from Serven and Colby Woodmansee would both end up scoring runs, giving the visitors a 4-2 lead after two innings of play.
Arizona State starter Brett Lilek struggled off and on Sunday, eventually allowing California to tie the game with a pair of single runs in the third and fifth frames. His offense would always find a way to answer though, and it was Andrew Snow that put them back on top with a run-scoring sacrifice fly in the top of the sixth.
The maroon and gold grabbed their second two-run advantage of the afternoon a couple of innings later in the most unlikely of ways. Jordan Aboites, playing out of position at third base, got his first start today since back on Mar 18. He did not waste the opportunity.
The 5-foot-5 junior fouled off two pitches after finding himself in a quick 0-2 count to lead off the eighth inning. The fifth pitch was the one Aboites had been looking for, and the ball was sent deep over the fence in left field for his first career home run.
Unfortunately for the Sun Devils, the story didn't end there. The Golden Bears responded in the bottom half of the frame with four runs, battering both relief pitchers trusted by head coach Tracy Smith. Right-hander Eder Erives was pulled after hitting the first batter of the inning, and it was Darin Gillies that allowed three singles and a triple (all without recording an out) to give up the lead and then some.
ASU went down in order in the ninth, clinching their first Pac-12 series loss of the season. Gillies (2-4) took the loss, meaning he was the pitcher of record for the Sun Devils in all three games this weekend. Dylan Nelson (2-1), who allowed the dinger to Aboites, ended up getting win for California.
The maroon and gold now find themselves with a record of 29-15 (14-7), two games back of first place UCLA. The Bruins will come to town next week for a pivotal three game set, and it would benefit Smith and company to find more than two or three arms out of the bullpen that can be trusted in crucial, late game situations. The first game of that series will start on Friday night at 6:30 PM.