Only a few hours separated from a thrilling walk-off win to complete a five-run comeback, the Arizona State Sun Devils took the field again on Saturday afternoon and carried the momentum from Friday into Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
The Sun Devils (8-7) took it to Long Beach State starter John Sheaks, while Spencer Van Scoyoc continued his impressive freshman campaign, limiting the Dirtbags at the plate to pace ASU to a 9-4 win.
Jake Godfrey shut the door on Long Beach State by notching the last four outs of the game for the Sun Devils and leading ASU out of a jam in the eighth to maintain a 5-4 lead.
The victory cinched the series win for the Sun Devils, and pushed their record to 8-7 heading into Sunday’s series finale.
Tied at 4-4 in the seventh inning after Long Beach State knocked in two runs off of reliever Reagan Todd, ASU immediately responded in the latter half of the frame. Catcher Zach Cerbo — who was responsible for four of ASU’s nine runs on the afternoon — reached base on a hit-by-pitch and advanced to second on Jeremy McCuin’s sacrifice bunt.
Leadoff batter Jackson Willeford knocked a single to left field in the next at-bat to bring Cerbo home and assert Arizona State back into the lead - giving them a 5-4 advantage they wouldn’t relinquish.
Van Scoyoc opened the afternoon with a one-pitch out was bounced right back to him for an easy putout, but he was soon after rattled by the power bats of Long Beach State - at one point tossing 11 consecutive balls while navigating his way through the first inning.
“I thought he was pitching a little tentatively,” head coach Tracy Smith said. “He’s young, but for us - for him and for us - to be as good as we can be he’s gotta be in the strike zone because that stuff eventually catches up - he knows that and we know that.”
The Dirtbags knocked home their first run off Van Scoyoc thanks to Brock Lundquist’s double to the left-center field, scoring Ramsey Romano from second and advancing Luke Rasmussen to third. Rasmussen came home on a fielder’s choice ground-out, and Van Scoyoc escaped the first inning without serious damage allowed.
“Unfortunately that’s been a little bit how he’s been, he has trouble in the first inning then he settles in nicely,” coach Smith said. “The problem is once you get to conference season and matching up with quality arms and all that the game can be over based on those walks so moving forward I know that’s going to be a focus for him. That’s the bad part, the nice part is he’s good enough to pitch around some of that stuff. He did settle in but it’d benefit us if he could go deeper into the game.”
Trailing 2-0 by the time they took the the plate, ASU’s bats didn’t come alive until the bottom of the second inning. Ryan Lillard’s one-out walk set the stage for freshman Carter Aldrete to lace a grounder through the left side of the infield to move Lillard to third base.
Hunter Bishop’s sacrifice fly off of Sheaks brought Lillard home, and on the following at-bat Cerbo connected on a two-run bomb that just evaded left-fielder Lucas Tancas’ glove and found its way into the palm trees. The senior’s home run was the first of the year for the catcher - who earned only his fourth start of the season but capitalized on his opportunities.
Cerbo struck again in the fourth inning, shooting a ground ball through the gut into center-field to score Aldrete, pushing the Sun Devil lead to 4-2.
Van Scoyoc left his control issues in the first inning and proceeded to find a powerful rhythm against the Dirtbags, allowing only one hit after the first inning and breezing through Long Beach State for 4 2⁄3 innings of two-hit ball. Reagan Tood took over for the freshman and made it through 2 innings before running into trouble.
With two outs and one man on for Long Beach State in the seventh inning, Todd issued a walk to Lundquist that would prove costly the following at-bat. Jackson roped an 0-2 pitch to the right-field wall and two Dirtbags crossed home plate to even the game at 4-4, preventing Van Scoyoc from earning his first collegiate win.
After Arizona State re-took the lead in the bottom half of the frame, Todd went back out onto the bump for the eighth inning but was replace with right-hander Ryan Hingst after getting one out and allowing one man to reach base. Hingst induced a ground-out to third base from pinch-hitter Domenic Collachio, but ASU committed errors on both the assist and put-out attempts and Collachio reached safely - with Tristan Mercadel moving up to third base.
Hingst collected one more out before he returned to the dugout as Smith replaced him with right-hander Jake Godfrey - sending him to the bump to face Romano with a runner in scoring position. Godfrey induced a pop out to end the threat and sent ASU to the bottom of the eighth having maintained its one-run lead.
Still developing the back end of his bullpen, Smith’s now had back-to-back stellar performances from his relievers. Chaz Montoya pitched 3.1 innings of scoreless ball on Friday and Godfrey’s cameo in the eighth ended Long Beach State’s last serious threat.
“We’ve got some capable guys,” coach Smith said. “We’re gonna attack one game at a time. I like the fact that (Godfrey) was on the backend today because of the breaking ball, he’s got a pretty good breaking ball with a good fastball.”
The Sun Devils broke the game open in the latter half of the eighth, scoring four runs off of Long Beach State relievers Chris Rivera and Sebastian Sanchez to take a five-run advantage to the ninth. Godfrey stayed out on the mound and mowed through the middle third of the Long Beach State order in the top of the ninth to ice the win.
Having wrapped up the series victory, ASU will come back out to Phoenix Muni at 2:00 pm MST on Sunday to try and complete the three-game sweep of the Dirtbags. Head coach Smith named Hingst - whose appearance in Saturday’s game was limited to six pitches - as the starter for Sunday’s tilt.