Pitching and defense wins games. Defense wins championships. And The Sun Devils (6-3) have pitching. Defensively, it’s another story.
In the top of the fourth inning of a scoreless tie and runners on first and second base, a hard hit ball found the glove ASU shortstop Jeremy McCuin before he flipped it to second base, then Connor Aldrete fired a bullet to first that Andrew Snow missed completely. Loyola Marymount’s Jimmy Hill rounded third and scored. The Lions took a 1-0 lead.
But behind Eli Lingos’ 7 2⁄3 innings pitched, no-earned-run, no-walk performance, the Sun Devils were gifted with not just good, but great pitching.
In the sixth inning, Jackson Willeford and Andrew Shaps’ RBI singles put Arizona State ahead and eventually won the Sun Devils game, 2-1.
Without the sixth inning though, ASU losses 1-0. And ASU head coach Tracy Smith clearly knew it.
“It’s very frustrating,” Smith said. “That game tonight could have gone either way. We’re very lucky to win that game.”
The Sun Devils have given up 14 errors this season. Three of them came on Friday night and seven of them have come from Snow. While Snow leads the Sun Devils with a .500 average with his bat, using his glove, he owns a team worst .625 fielding percentage.
To make matters worse, Snow would’ve been charged with the game-losing error if the Sun Devils fell 1-0.
“If you sit there and you were talking at this table right now and we lose that game one nothing because we’re lazy on turning the double-play ball and we just flat out miss a ball at first base. That’s a pretty tough pill to swallow,” Smith said.
At second base last season, Snow led the team with 13 errors, while posting the fifth-highest team batting average of .276. This season, Snow began playing third base before bouncing around to second base and then first base for the first time in his career.
“He’s never played there before. It’s a little bit on us (coaches) trying to find that competitive lineup with his bat in the lineup,” Smith said.
With his bat, it’s statistically proven Snow can’t leave the order. In his last three games, Snow has hit 7-for-9, and is in the midst of a five-game hitting streak.
It’s not about if Snow will be in the lineup, but where.
“(Outfielder) Tyler WIlliams has been swinging the bat well. So we’re trying to create spots,” Smith said. “I would say you’re going to see him (Snow) out there again at some point. Because if we don’t, we’re taking out arguably one of our best hitters who puts together competitive at bats and has done for two plus years.”
Above everything, Smith values his defense. With Pac-12 play beginning in less than two weeks on March 16th, fielding is his biggest concern. The Sun Devils open against No. 7 Oregon State who has given up 12 errors compared to the Sun Devils’ 14.
“It’s about a win and a loss, so you’re happy you won,” Smith said. “But what we’re still trying to do is measure ourselves about what caliber of play is going to give us the best chance in the Pac-12. Clearly, defensively we’ve got to get a lot better.”