After three weeks of fall practices, Tracy Smith and the Arizona State baseball team finally got to play someone other than themselves on Tuesday night.
You are looking live at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.— House of Sparky (@HouseOfSparky) November 16, 2016
First pitch between the Sun Devils and Vaqueros coming in 40 minutes. pic.twitter.com/7PkHWeRyv2
And while the result in the nine-inning scrimmage against Central Arizona College may not have broken their way, there was still plenty to take from the Sun Devils’ 11-7 defeat. We break down everything you need to know below.
The Good: The corner infielders
With the departure of upperclassmen David Greer and Jordan Aboites, some reshuffling across the infield will be needed by Smith and his staff this season. It was junior Ryan Lillard and Northwest Florida State transfer Taylor Lane who got the first nod at first and third base on Tuesday, and both came away looking ready to inherit the roles for good.
Lane, who hit at a .325 average for a Raider team that won the NJCAA national championship a season ago, put together a couple of productive plate appearances in the scrimmage. He drew a bases-loaded walk in the third inning to pull Arizona State to within 4-3, and a hard hit ball to the left side of the infield in the eighth brought home the second of three runs the team would tally in the frame.
Lillard, on the other hand, continued to show some of the flashes of brilliance that we saw a year ago. He finished the night 1-for-2 at the dish, including an RBI triple in the bottom of the eighth.
Lillard ⏰— Sun Devil Baseball (@ASU_Baseball) November 16, 2016
Ryan smashes an RBI triple and then scores off of Lane's grounder.
It was just nine innings of baseball, but the blow of losing Greer and Aboites will be lessened significantly if the pair can keep up that kind of production throughout the spring.
The Bad: The sophomore right-handed relievers
Pitching coach Brandon Higelin has made it evident through his comments earlier in Fall Ball that his young relievers had made some significant improvements since their freshman seasons, but sophomores Chris Isbell and Fitz Stadler were jumped all over by the Vaqueros on Tuesday.
Coming on in relief of Eder Erives in the second inning (all pitchers were scheduled to throw around one frame in the scrimmage), Isbell promptly gave up back-to-back singles before uncorking a wild pitch to start his night. He would eventually allow two runs (both earned) on those two hits.
Stadler’s outing was even worse. Following Isbell out of the bullpen, the right-hander issued a walk and gave up three hits in the top of the third inning. That led to two more Central Arizona runs, putting the Sun Devils behind 4-0 on the scoreboard.
The Ugly: Errors, errors, and more errors
While the fielding errors may have been the worst part of the scrimmage, those are also the easiest to dismiss. This is Fall Ball, after all, where the main goal is to avoid injury and shake off some of the offseason rust.
But with that being said, this was a very poor defensive exhibition. Smith’s club tallied three errors by the end of the night, a number that could have been even higher if not for a couple of scoring decisions that went their way.
Cleaning up those mistakes will be at the top of the team’s list as they head into the annual Maroon and Gold World Series, which will be played this weekend at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.