LOS ANGELES - A six-run offensive uproar in the seventh inning ensured a 12-4 victory for the Arizona State Sun Devils over the UCLA Bruins during their three-game series opener on Friday night at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
Right fielder Gage Canning led the way for the Sun Devils (31-18, 14-11 Pac-12) from the leadoff spot, going 4-for-5, including two doubles and three runs batted in.
The freshman powered the Sun Devils' five-hit, six-run seventh frame with a bases-loaded, three-run RBI double which at the time gave ASU a 7-3 advantage over the Bruins (24-27, 11-14).
"Really, I was just trying to get some runs in," Canning said. "Whether it was a sac fly or anything possible just to get a couple more runs in. But the double and the three RBI's were huge."
Shortstop Colby Woodmansee (2-for-5, 2B, RBI, 2 R) brought the freshman home on an infield single two batters later, then left fielder Andrew Shaps (2-for-4, 2 2B, 3 RBI) doubled into left center, pushing two more runs across to extend the Sun Devils' lead to 10-3.
The ASU offense was clinical on the evening, collecting 14 hits while going 7-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
"We're not gonna hit 7-for-12 every night, but I'll take that over 0-for-12," ASU head coach Tracy Smith said. "I'm very pleased with that though. I thought we did a real good job of hitting with runners on base."
The Sun Devils offense came to life on a night where starter Seth Martinez (9-3, 2.04 ERA) wasn't in his most dominant form, despite tossing eight innings on Friday.
Martinez hit the first batter of the game he faced, and that situation progressed into a bases-loaded scenario with just one out.
However, the ace didn't fret; instead, he struck out the next two batters he faced, repelling the danger.
Smith said Martinez appeared to settle in as the game went on.
"When they had bases loaded and one out and he was able to pitch out of that, that kind of ignited the team a little bit," Smith said.
Canning said the team ace's usual dominance called for his teammates' bats to provide critical run support on a down day.
"Seth usually carries us on his back, so maybe it wasn't his best performance, but it was our night to have his back," he said.
And have his back they did. Offensively, the Sun Devils were able to produce double-digit runs for the fourth time this season (they've won each game they've scored 10 or more runs).
The output began when the Sun Devils and Bruins traded blows in the third and fourth innings.
Second baseman Jordan Aboites drilled an RBI-sac fly into deep left field, bringing in third baseman Andrew Snow for the first score of the day after he reached on a leadoff double to begin the third.
In the bottom half of the frame, Martinez was touched for a solo home run by Bruins designated hitter Eric Filia to tie the game.
ASU answered, regaining its advantage in the fourth inning when Shaps tagged a one-out RBI double down the first-base line which was followed by a Brian Serven two-run home run on the very next pitch to push the Sun Devils ahead 4-1.
Martinez relinquished two more runs in the next half inning, but with runners on the corners, he induced a ground ball to keep ASU in front at 4-3.
He stranded another runner at third in the bottom of the sixth. Then, in the seventh, Snow drew a walk, catcher Zac Cerbo managed an infield single, and Aboites was hit by a pitch, before Canning brought them all home on the double.
By the time complete damage was done, Martinez returned to the mound with a comfy 10-3 lead to pitch behind, needing nine more outs to earn the win. He was in unfamiliarly safe territory as a result of the 14 hits the offense manufactured.
"Just getting a ton of hits like that is huge in general," Canning said. "Seth did a great job on the mound, and getting run support to back it up is huge."
Martinez recorded two of his five total strikeouts in the bottom of the seventh, then pitched a clean eighth before being pulled.
Left fielder Daniel Williams hit an RBI single and Serven added a sac fly to pad ASU's lead at 12-3 entering the bottom of the ninth. Right-handers Chris Isbell and Connor Higgins came in and conceded a run, but notched the final three outs, vaulting ASU to its seventh win in its last 10 games.
With the first contest of the series resulting in a victory, the Sun Devils are focused on finishing the series and the season strong. Smith was adamant his team is accepting the challenge.
"This Pac-12 is a very unforgiving league," he said. "There's a lot at stake, and I think our guys realize that. They've done a really good job of keeping things in.
"We're not too high, not too low. We'll enjoy it for a little bit, but by the time we get back to the hotel it'll be out of our minds, and focus on tomorrow. (sic)"
The Sun Devils return to Jackie Robinson Stadium tomorrow to take on the Bruins in the second of their three-game series. First pitch is scheduled to be thrown at 7 p.m. PT.