It was a typical midweek affair in college baseball. The Arizona State Sun Devils and Nevada Wolfpack combined for 16 runs, 19 hits and five errors and when the dust settled the Sun Devils suffered their first setback of 2016, 11-5 to the Wolfpack in front of 2,036 fans on a chilly night at Phoenix Municipal Stadium
"There won't be any panic because of this," Tracy Smith said. "We didn't pitch (very well tonight) we certainly didn't play defense. I thought we had good at-bats, even when we got down. We kept battling which was about the only positive tonight."
Nevada leadoff hitter Justin Bridgman smacked the first pitch off the game sharply to second base where it careened off Andrew Snow's glove into shallow center field. It was a sign of things to come for the Sun Devils as they never seemed to be quite be in the game.
Nevada put up four runs in the first inning and never looked back, leading by eight runs after their half of the fourth. Wolfpack third baseman Bryce Greager, who hails from Fountain Hills, Ariz., burned the Sun Devils to the tune of five RBIs, all of which came in the first four innings.
Greager's two-run home run in the third inning put the Wolfpack ahead 6-1 and his two-RBI single in the fourth put Nevada up 9-1.
"You have a young pitcher on the mound, who probably hasn't established confidence yet and today we happened to pick a bad time to be poor defensively," Smith said. "We make that first play or catch a fly ball maybe that changes things and he doesn't go out and look like a freshman."
Righty Fitz Stadler started for the Sun Devils, the first career start for the 6-foot-9 freshman. He lasted just 2 1/3 innings, allowing six runs (four earned), on six hits while striking out one and walking a batter. Stadler sat in the low 90's but struggled to command his offspeed pitches.
Down 9-1, ASU would not go down quietly. The Sun Devils scored on a Gage Canning sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fourth to make it 9-2 and in the fifth junior shortstop Colby Woodmansee smacked a two-run home run over the left field fence to pull ASU within four.
"After the first inning, I was kind of anxious to see how we would respond," Smith said. "I've said I can't wait to see how we handle adversity. Guys weren't at each others throats. We just didn't play well defensively tonight. We just didn't play well."
Woodmansee collected three extra base hits and notched three of ASUs five RBIs.
"They were throwing me all fastballs," Woodmansee said. "They kept pounding me with fastballs so my mentality going (up to the plate) was to look fastball."
The score remained 9-5 until the top of the eighth inning when Nevada added two runs aided by an error from third baseman Jordan Aboites that would have ended the inning. The next batter, Wolfpack second baseman Miles Mastrobuoni, smacked a two-RBI single to seal the game for the visitors.
Perhaps one positive of trailing early was Smith was able to throw four pitchers in relief Tuesday night, including two who made their ASU debuts. Freshman Chris Isbell and Garvin Alston Jr. combined to toss 2 2/3 innings allowing just one hit.
Grant Schneider made his second relief appearance, allowing three earned runs in 1 1/3 innings of work. Smith noted after the game the Sun Devils are still attempting to carve out roles in the bullpen.
"We are trying to look at different guys and pick the spots to get them in," Smith said. "I think as we roll into the season you are probably going to see less and less of multiple guys (in a game)."
The Sun Devils will have a quick turnaround, as they leave for Long Beach, Calif., at 10 a.m. on Thursday morning to visit the Dirtbags of Long Beach State for a weekend series. Although he doesn't like the result, Smith knows his young team will learn from Tuesday night's contest.
"You are going to have games like this," Smith said. "I don't like this, you (reporters) don't like this, our fans don't like it. We are going to get better from it."