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ASU Baseball: OSU’s Heimlich chokes out offense, Sun Devils fall, 2-0

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The Sun Devils offense struggled to get much going on Thursday night.

Photo taken by Nick Ramirez

TEMPE, Ariz. — And down they finally went.

Arizona State was upended by No. 2 Oregon State, 2-0, on Thursday at Phoenix Municipal Stadium in front of 6,010 to open Pac-12 play. The loss ends the Sun Devils’ (9-8, 0-1 Pac-12) three-game winning streak despite another quality outing from starting left-handed pitcher Eli Lingos.

Two innings provided two different outcomes for the junior southpaw (3-1), who suffered his first defeat of the season.

In the first inning, Lingos came one strike away from exiting the segment clean with no hits, walks or runs allowed. Instead, the Sun Devils’ ace walked Oregon State’s KJ Harrison, before Trevor Larnach’s RBI double plated him, giving the Beavers a 1-0 lead. ASU’s deficit stretched to 2-0 after Lanarch was brought home after the following at-bat, when left fielder Andy Atwood singled into left field in the top of the first inning.

As has been the trend over the last several games, Sun Devils head coach Tracy Smith elected to stick with his starting pitcher, despite a rough start. Once again, in a moment that may beg for action to a casual observer, the third-year coach’s decision to allow his Friday-night starter to work through an early rough patch paid off.

“We certainly would love to have had a better start to that first inning,” Smith said. “I thought he did an excellent job after that.”

With two outs in the second inning, Lingos conceded a single to Cadyn Grenier, followed by back-to-back full-count walks by Nick Madrigal and Steven Kwan that loaded the bases. This time though, the left-hander induced Harrison to pop out, mitigating the threat.

“I just got aggressive and had a better feel for my pitches, and started trusting them more,” said Lingos.

The junior lefty (seven innings pitched, six hits, five strikeouts, two earned runs, three walks) provided six innings of scoreless ball following the first frame.

Smith said he thought outside of the early walks, Lingos did his job, keeping ASU in the game.

“That’s a very lethal offense,” he said. “If you take us to the eighth inning, only giving up two runs, to me, the starter’s done his job.”

Against a unit as strong as Oregon State, the early deficit—despite the small margin—proved too difficult for ASU to overcome.

And it was difficult for good reason. Beavers starting pitcher Luke Heimlich didn’t relinquish a single hit until the bottom of the fifth inning, when Sun Devils infielder Andrew Snow pinch hit for third baseman Jackson Willeford and finally collected a two-out single through the left side of the diamond, marking the host’s first breakthrough against the 95-mph fireballer.

“The guy is 4-0 and he has a 0.25 ERA,” said Smith of Heimlich. “He was definitely on tonight.”

Heimlich (eight innings, two hits, eight strikeouts) handily choked the Sun Devils’ offense, which was held scoreless for the first time this season in defeat.

Smith said he wouldn’t make it more than what it is, but added the Beavers’ left-hander was very sharp.

“He was pretty good,” he said. “I would say that has a lot to do with it. I don’t think it so much as maybe what we weren’t doing, it’s just sometimes somebody is doing it a little bit better against you, and I definitely thought he was on tonight.”

The two teams will square off for the second installment of their three-game series tomorrow, with first pitch scheduled for 4 p.m. MT. Left-hander Spencer Van Scoyoc is expected to start on the mound for the Sun Devils.