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ASU Baseball: Defensive mistakes cost Sun Devils in 4-2 loss to Washington

Arizona State's struggles continued in a series-opening loss to Washington on Friday night.

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

There was a fielding error by Jeremy McCuin to start the fifth inning, and two misplayed fly balls in left field by Tyler Williams. Even the ever-reliable Andrew Snow booted a routine grounder in the fourth, perhaps driving home the point of mistakes proving to be contagious for the Arizona State baseball team.

It was the Washington Huskies who ran off the field at Phoenix Municipal Stadium as a winner on Friday night, and you didn't have to look much further than the defensive performance by either club to see who the better team was.

"If we take care of the ball defensively, we're in a position to win the baseball game," said ASU coach Tracy Smith after the loss. "That has kind of been the story all year."

The miscues started in the top half of the second inning, when some miscommunication between three Sun Devils in shallow left field led to an RBI double for nine-hole hitter A.J. Graffanino. That gave the Huskies a 2-0 lead, putting a maroon and gold team that has struggled to find their bats behind the eight ball early on.

"I am trying to look at this and say, we've got some young guys playing," Smith said. "Now, Tyler (Williams) should have been more aggressive coming in on that ball (from left field). That is his play all the way, but stuff that will come in time."

The headaches continued in the fifth as Washington's leadoff man reached on a fielding error McCuin at third. That put the speedy Joey Morgan on the basepaths, and Morgan would come around to score later in the inning on another poorly judged fly ball by Williams.

The mistake scored another Husky in the process, giving Washington (14-10, 5-4 Pac-12) a 4-0 cushion halfway through the ballgame.

Starting pitcher Seth Martinez struggled at times on Friday but did a good job of limiting the damage that came his way. He exited the game with two outs in the fifth, having given up two earned runs on eight hits.

"When you're a starter, you are going to have those outings once in a while," said Smith. "I don't think he was particularly sharp, but I also think if we had made enough plays behind him, he pitched well enough to give us a chance to win. And we did not do that tonight."

Arizona State had a chance to make some magic happen with its bats in the sixth inning as both Snow and David Greer reached safely to open the frame. They would both come around to score to cut the deficit in half, but a bases-loaded groundout from Sebastian Zawada ended the inning with the score still at 4-2.

"I said it to one of our coaches on the bench tonight," Smith said. "I asked, 'When are we going to get that big hit? Who wants to be at the plate when the bases loaded when you are down a couple of runs and shoot one into the gap?"

The Sun Devils didn't find that big hit in any of the final three innings, either. The team was able to get the tying run to the plate in the bottom half of the ninth, but a game-ending double play ball from R.J. Ybarra completed a frustrating night for Smith's team.

Arizona State is now 16-11 (3-7 Pac-12) and has lost eight of its last 11 ballgames. There is still time to turn the season around, but a change in attitude and execution is going to have to come quickly.

"Good players need to start making good plays," said Smith. "If you are a baseball player at Arizona State, there's an expectation that goes with that. Right now, we are nowhere near living up to that expectation."

The Sun Devils will look to right the ship, at least momentarily, in game two of the series tomorrow afternoon. First pitch is set for 3:30 p.m. back at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.