Licking their wounds after suffering three straight losses to open Pac-12 play, the Arizona State baseball team came into Tuesday's contest with San Diego looking to get right before stepping back into conference play this weekend.
The story was a much different one three hours later as the team was left shaking their heads following a 6-3 loss to a mediocre Torero club.
"I have been doing this a long time," said head coach Tracy Smith, just minutes after ripping the team in the clubhouse for a lack of effort. "You're going to go through stretches where things do not go your way. My takeaway from this game is that there wasn't a lot of fight in the dog today. And that concerns me."
The day started with senior Jordan Aboites getting his second start of the season on the mound. The righty promptly gave up three runs scattered across his first three innings of work, putting his team in an early hole that they would never quite dig out of. He struggled with location early on but did do a good job to limit his self-inflicted damage, keeping the score at a manageable deficit.
"I was falling behind in counts and didn't throw a lot of first pitch strikes," Aboites said after the loss. "I could have done a lot better job of getting ahead."
His offense got a run back for him in the bottom of the second. First baseman RJ Ybarra doubled to open the inning, then came around to score on an RBI fielder's choice from Ryan Lillard.
The Sun Devils continued to chip away at the deficit in the fourth as Andrew Snaps picked up an RBI single to make the score 3-2. Coltin Gerhart then had a chance to tie the game with just one out and the bases loaded, but a 5-4-3 double play ball ended the opportunity.
The play would prove to be a big one as the team was unable to get within one run again for the rest of the evening, in part due to leaving 11 runners on the basepaths.
"That was an immature at-bat," said Smith. "We swung at a ball down with a good count and the bases loaded. There are just going to be games like this where you get a lot of guys on and can't get a hit."
Aboites exited the game after issuing a leadoff walk to start the fifth frame, but the maroon and gold's pitching woes would continue on. Freshman lefty Reagan Todd came in out of the bullpen and quickly allowed two runs, giving San Diego some much-needed insurance.
A Brian Serven single to shallow right in the bottom half of the inning was able to bring in Arizona State's third run of the game, but that would be the final time the team got on the board.
A solo home run from cleanup man Ryan Kirby gave the Toreros a 6-3 advantage in the eighth, and while Arizona State was able to mount a mini-rally in the ninth, nothing would end up coming from it.
"I just think we need to move on from it," Aboites says. "It was obviously a tough game and a tough loss, but there were some little things we can take from it."
The loss was the Sun Devils fourth straight, moving their record to 13-7 (0-3 Pac-12) on the year. But while losing streaks of this magnitude can be alarming, it is still too early to panic.
"When you're doing kind of poorly, you cannot get too low," said Aboites. "We have got to realize that it is a long season, and that this is baseball. You can have a great day one day and a bad one the next."
These types of stretches will come and go throughout the year with this young team, especially as the schedule starts to toughen up following some easy nonconference wins.
They will have a chance to right the ship this weekend against Utah, which comes into Phoenix with a record six games below .500.
Because of the Easter holiday, the series with the Utes will run Thursday-Saturday. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. on Thursday back at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.