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ASU Baseball: Long balls lay waste to Trojans in pivotal series opener

You come at the king, you best not miss.

Ryan Bafaloukos

For the first seven innings of Friday night's series opener at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, USC starter Joe Navilhon was sensational.

After making a bad pitch against Gage Canning (one that Arizona State's leadoff man took advantage of to the tune of a monstrous home run) - the first batter he faced all night - Navilhon was impressive across the game's next seven innings.

Fortunately for the Sun Devils, a single mistake uncorked by the right-hander in the bottom of the eighth undid every other stroke of his previously painted masterpiece.

That two-run, two out home run from David Greer gave the maroon and gold a 3-2 advantage, one they would hang on to despite seeing the Trojans (26-28, 13-15 Pac-12) load the bases with just one out in the top half of the ninth. The win was a huge one for Tracy Smith's club, giving them the first of two (or maybe even three) victories needed to host a regional next weekend in Phoenix.

As good as Navilhon was on this night, Arizona State starter Seth Martinez was right there with him. Martinez allowed just two runs on four hits in seven innings of work, giving his offense a chance to pick him up later in the game.

That offense staked him to a lead early on, as the aforementioned Canning led off the bottom of the first with a solo shot to the deepest part of the yard.

That gave the home team a 1-0 lead, one that would be erased when the visitors from Los Angeles added a pair of runs in the fourth frame. A pair of one-out walks would come back to bite Martinez in that inning, as five-hole hitter AJ Ramirez cleared the bases with a double to put his team in front.

The score stood at 2-1 until the eighth, when Andrew Snow worked a pinch hit, leadoff walk to get aboard as the game's tying run. Navilhon (5-5) bounced back to retire the next two batters, but the first pitch he gave to Greer ended up right in the middle of the strike zone.

The junior took advantage, lifting the ball over the right field wall to put the maroon and gold back on top. Eder Ervies then came in to shut the door in the ninth, and while it wasn't pretty, the righty escaped a bases loaded jam to record his 10th save of the season.

Arizona State improved to 34-19 (16-12 Pac-12) with the win, keeping alive its hopes of sharing a conference title for at least one more day. They will need two more wins against USC plus Washington and Utah splitting the two games remaining in their series in order to tie for the Pac-12 crown.

The series with the Trojans will continue Saturday at 7:00 PM. Those not in attendance can watch the game on the Pac-12 Networks.