Jeremy McCuin admitted he was nervous. And why shouldn't he be? Because of a suspension to Jordan Aboites, the freshman from Gilbert, Ariz., was making his first career start in front of many family and friends on a night where ASU honored former Sun Devil Cory Hahn.
McCuin's nerves did not show in his performance as he reached base twice and drove in two runs in Arizona State's 12-4 victory over Eastern Michigan Friday night in front of 2,433 fans at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
"I got nervous right when we got into the tunnel," McCuin said. "I think my adrenaline kicked in once I got out there and I shook all my teammates hands. I have been waiting for this moment my entire life."
McCuin was tested right away as the first batter of the game, Eastern Michigan shortstop Marquise Gill, laced a bouncing ball to him at third base. McCuin had to spin towards the foul line to corral the ball and then throw across the diamond to retire Gill, who already boasts nine steals this season.
That was the best thing that could have happened to the freshman making his first career start.
"It was good to get it out of the way," McCuin said. "I wasn't really expecting a hard ground ball but it came to be and I just did what I have always done. It was nice to get it over with."
The Sun Devils got on the board first on an RBI single from David Greer following back-to-back walks to Daniel Williams and Andrew Shaps in the first inning.
However, with runners on first and second, Colby Woodmansee and Brian Serven each struck out and the Sun Devils settled for one run in the first. That would be the only hit the Sun Devils would collect until the fourth inning.
Eastern Michigan answered in the top of the second with an RBI double from center fielder Austin Wilson. The single was sandwiched between doubles from Jackson Martin and Jeremy Stidham, which were the hardest hits allowed by starter Seth Martinez this season.
The Eagles were knocking on the door in the third inning when the first three batters of the inning singled to load the bases with nobody out. Martinez responded by striking out Mitchell McGeein and Martin and getting Wilson to foul out to David Greer at first base to end the inning with no damage.
"In that situation, there was just a lot of adrenaline and a lot more focus," Martinez said about that third inning. "Right after that my confidence hit another level and I was in the zone again."
Martinez, pitching on Friday nights because of an injury to Hever Bueno, allowed seven hits in his first three innings of work but settled in and retired 11 batters in a row during the middle innings. Martinez has now allowed just one earned run in 19 innings this season.
"He was uncharacteristically up (in the strike zone) early," said manager Tracy Smith. "He had to make pitches in tough situations and he made them. Seth was Seth so good for him and for us."
The Sun Devils retook the lead in the fourth inning when McCuin collected his first hit as a Sun Devils, a double to bring home fellow freshman Gage Canning. McCuin, finished the night 1-2 with 2 RBIs and a walk.
"You never know when your opportunity is going to come, and you have to be ready for your opportunity," said Smith. "From a coaching perspective there is nothing more rewarding than seeing a guy who hasn't played produce the way he did."
Eastern Michigan made it interesting in the eighth inning as they put up two runs and had the bases loaded when Eder Erives struck out Brennon Williams to escape the jam. The ASU bullpen surrendered three runs on five hits in relief of Martinez.
"That's (the bullpen) is the one thing we really need to get straightened out and I'm not sure if we will to be honest with you," Smith said. "We shouldn't need six. guys after the sixth inning to close out a game."
The Sun Devils added some insurance with a three-hit, four-run eighth inning. Following back-to-back doubles from Shaps and Greer and a walk to Woodmansee, Brian Serven put the game away for good with a three-run home run to left field to put the Sun Devils up 12-4.
ASU will look to take the series tomorrow when the two teams meet for Game 2 of the series. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. and redshirt freshman Reagan Todd is scheduled to pitch for the Sun Devils.