Through 45 games, Arizona State head coach Tracy Smith knows a few truths about his ball club. The Sun Devils shine in close games, with five walk-off wins and a 14-6 record in one-run games. However, one other truth about his club reared its ugly head Friday night in ASU's 9-0 defeat to UCLA.
"What we didn't do well tonight are things that are controllable up here (pointing to head)," said Smith. "When we aren't concentrating upstairs, we are a very average baseball club."
The Sun Devils committed three errors against the Bruins, leading to four unearned runs. However, errors are something that Smith can live with, lapses in concentration, now that is a different story.
Colby Woodmansee was picked off of first base after a single in the fourth inning. The following two hitters both poked singles to left field. A UCLA Bruin stole second base when starting pitcher Seth Martinez was holding the ball on the mound, just looking a different direction.
"I'll live with an error, what I won't live with is that kind of stuff," said Smith. "We had plenty of that tonight. I am not upset with that kind of stuff, I am upset with the stuff that is concentration and focus."
After a scoreless first inning, UCLA took the lead in the second when Kort Peterson hit an RBI triple to score Chris Keck. Peterson was brought home on a Trent Chatterton sac fly and the Bruins took a 2-0 lead. UCLA tacked on one more in the fourth when Keck hit his team-leading seventh home run.
UCLA broke open the flood gates in the sixth inning, putting up four runs, all unearned and all coming with two outs. Following back-to-back singles from Chatterton and Christoph Bono, leadoff hitter Brett Stephens singled to center field to plate a run.
David Greer, playing first base Friday night because Joey Bielek was suspended, cut the throw off and was poised to throw out Stephens at second base, however he threw the ball into center field, allowing Stephens to reach third and an additional run to score.
The next batter, Kevin Kramer, hit a single to right field, however the ball went right under Trever Allen's glove, which turned a single into an inside the park home run. A "little league home run" as Smith called it.
"Sometimes a ball is going to take a bad hop, sometimes somebody is going to be in a hurry trying to make a play, those things happen," said Smith.
Even though UCLA put up nine runs, they really only needed one. Starter James Kaprielian scattered five hits over seven shutout innings. Kaprielian was not dominant, only striking out three, but he pitched to contact and his defense played flawless behind him. UCLA's star bullpen tandem of Grant Dyer and David Berg pitched the final two innings and allowed just one hit combined.
Smith did point out two positives that took place Friday night for ASU. One was the relief effort of Ryan Hingst. The freshman threw 3 1/3 innings, only allowing three hits and a run. Smith said he had some of his best stuff all year Friday night.
The other positive note is that these two teams will meet Saturday night, as ASU tries to even up the series.
"This is just one game, one of the ugliest ones that I can remember," said Smith. "It's over it's done. We can either sit around and mope about it, or we can correct it. We have two games left against a very good team. They are very beatable. Regardless of whether we win or not, I want to see us play better baseball."