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ASU Baseball: Sun Devils set back against Gonzaga in regional opener

The Bulldogs and Brandon Bailey surprised Arizona State for a 5-1 victory on Friday afternoon.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

All season long, Friday has belonged to Arizona State's Seth Martinez. The junior right-hander has been masterful in 2016, ending the regular season with a 9-3 record and a 2.08 ERA.

Today, however, it was Gonzaga starter Brandon Bailey that stole the spotlight from Martinez and the Sun Devils. The third-seeded Bulldogs rode a dazzling performance from their ace to a 5-1 win on Friday, sending the maroon and gold to the Fort Worth Regional loser's bracket.

Martinez seemed off from the outset at Lupton Stadium, throwing strikes but also leaving pitches up in the zone. The underdogs from Spokane came into the game with a swing first, ask questions later approach, and the strategy paid off.

Gonzaga drew first blood with two runs in the top half of the first inning, then added to its lead with another pair of runs in the second frame. And when Nick Brooks doubled home Dustin Breshears with just one out recorded in the third, head coach Tracy Smith determined that he had seen enough.

The righty left the game having given up five runs on nine hits in just 2.1 innings of work, making up his worst stat line of the year. Martinez did only throw 65 pitches, meaning he could be available to use later in the weekend if necessary.

To their credit, the Arizona State bullpen performed well to keep its offense in the game. Just five days removed from a disastrous outing in the regular season finale against USC, Connor Higgins and Eli Lingos threw up zero after zero as the afternoon progressed.

Unfortunately for the Sun Devils, their offense could never quite muster enough hits at the plate to get back into the contest. They did get on the board in the fourth via an RBI fielder's choice off the bat of Ryan Lillard, but that rally was snuffed out after Andrew Snow popped out to the second baseman to end the frame.

Arizona State then managed to get its first two runners aboard in the next inning, but a pair of strikeouts and a pop fly induced by Bailey put that threat to bed.

From then on, Bailey and his bullpen cruised through the remainder of the game without much trouble at all. The Bulldog right-hander exited the contest after the seventh, leaving with just five hits and one run conceded.

Junior Sam Hellinger came on in relief for Bailey, cruising through the final two innings to put a bow on the victory. ASU's one run was their worst offensive output since a 1-0 victory against New Mexico back on the first of May.

Bailey, of course, was credited with the win, improving his record to 10-3 on the season. Martinez (9-4) took the loss for the Sun Devils.

A quick turnaround awaits Smith's club, who will return to the field at 9:00 a.m. (MST) on Saturday for an elimination game. They are still awaiting their opponent for that one, which will be the loser of the TCU-Oral Roberts contest later today.