PHOENIX — Arizona State scored a single-inning season-high five runs during the third frame of their 8-5 victory over Long Beach State on Sunday, as the Sun Devils (9-7) completed a three-game series sweep of the Dirtbags in front of 2,628 at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
“It was fun just to hear the vibe of the dugout,” Arizona State head coach Tracy Smith said. “I’m very proud of the response against a very, very good opponent. Long Beach State’s a good team, and to sweep anybody, particularly a very good baseball team, is definitely a step in the right direction.”
The sweep marks the second of the season for ASU, and its first since it took three against Northwestern during opening weekend. The victory also extends the Sun Devils’ winning streak to three games after incurring a four-game losing streak entering the series.
While the term “sweep” insinuates ease of competition, the Sun Devils weren’t always on the side of fortune, and weren’t for a considerate portion of the series. It was no different Sunday, as the first inning was fashioned after the script every bout of the three-game set mirrored, putting the Sun Devils in a multi-run hole.
Long Beach State’s offense attacked ASU starting pitcher Ryan Hingst early, collecting singles on each of their two opening at-bats before an RBI groundout from Brock Lundquist plated the first run of the game. An infield RBI single from Lucas Tancas, and a two-RBI double from Ramsey Romano stretched the Dirtbags’ first-inning advantage to 4-0.
Once again Smith elected to stick with his starter despite early damage, and although Hingst lasted for only another inning before being removed, his recovery from the opening frame set the tone for the rest of the bullpen to follow.
While the first inning stayed true to the trend set in previous contests, the Maroon & Gold’s offense broke its habit of procrastination Sunday, flashing signs of life early.
“Today it was almost like guys were almost laughing about it,” Smith said. “‘Like ‘No big deal. We’ve been here before.’”
In the second inning, ASU loaded the bases following walks from Lyle Lin and Jackson Willeford, and a single from Carter Aldrete. Outfielder Ryan Lillard skied an RBI sac fly into left field to make the score 4-1, but the Sun Devils were unable to do add anything else.
Perhaps they were saving their offensive production for the next inning.
Outfielder Andrew Shaps hit an RBI single to bring in Gage Canning, who led off the inning with a ground-rule double. Lyle Lin followed suit with an RBI single of his own on the next at-bat, lowering ASU’s deficit to 4-3.
Within one, Hunter Bishop then stepped up to bat facing no outs with two runners on base. The designated hitter battled Long Beach State right-hander Matt Fields, getting ahead 3-0 in the count before allowing it to run full at 3-2. But the freshman didn’t fret in the situation; instead he ripped the offering down the first-base line, giving the Sun Devils a 5-4 edge on a two-RBI triple.
“He’s kind of putting it together,” Smith said of Bishop. “He was a big part of our success this weekend.”
Bishop would come in to score on the ensuing at-bat when third baseman Jackson Willeford drilled an RBI-ground-rule double to complete ASU’s comeback amidst taking a 6-4 lead in the third.
The hosts would add one more to their advantage in the following frame, when Canning scored again, this time after Fields balked with the sophomore on third base, pushing ASU ahead 7-4 after four innings.
The offensive production provided comfortable support for the Sun Devil bullpen.
After Hingst was pulled ahead of the third inning, right-hander Jake Godfrey tossed 3 2⁄3 innings of scoreless, one-hit baseball to supplement ASU’s lead.
Smith described the junior as a “weapon out of the pen” following his performance on Sunday.
“You can use him in multiple roles, he’s a competitive kid, wants the baseball,” Smith said. “He was a big part of our success this weekend.”
Freshman left-hander Tanner West pitched 1⁄3 inning and was charged with an unearned run during the top of the seventh after one of his two walked batsmen scored, but it was the lone blemish on an otherwise strong night out of the Sun Devils’ pitching staff. Including relievers Fitz Stadler and Connor Higgins’ efforts, the unit finished the contest allowing five runs (three earned) on nine hits and five walks.
Lillard would smash a solo home run over the wall in straight-away center to make the score 8-5 during the bottom of the eighth, putting the game away for good.
“Our guys are confident right now,” Smith said. “There’s some things that I really like what we’re doing as we head into conference play, and there’s some things that really concern me. We’re just gonna try and get better each day, and stay together as a team.”
Performances like Sunday’s are the type of total, all-around performance ASU will need to manufacture with Pac-12 play set to begin next week when Phoenix Municipal Stadium plays host to the No. 4 Oregon State Beavers on Thursday in the first of a three-game set.
“There’s a lot of baseball left to be played,” Smith said, who then added that his team will continue to do its best to “scratch and claw, and figure out a way to beat people, even if it isn’t the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen.”
- The Sun Devils now lead their all-time series with Long Beach State, 44-13.
- ASU’s five-run third inning is the highest single-inning total recorded by the team this season.
- The Sun Devils are now 3-0 since incorporating their pre-game “Energy Circle” routine.
- Eight of ASU’s nine batters collected a hit during the win on Sunday.
- Andrew Shaps is currently on an eight-game hitting streak.