Leading up to Friday’s Pac-12 matchup against UCLA, Arizona State’s Eli Lingos had allowed a minuscule eight walks in six starts.
After just the second inning against the Bruins, his walk total grew to double digits, issued three walks in the inning that sparked three UCLA runs. Most notably, handing UCLA an RBI walk.
Two more walks and 3 1⁄3 innings later, Lingos’s night ended after giving up just two earned runs in 5 1⁄3 innings.
All four Sun Devil pitchers who took the mound on Friday night exited giving up a walk. Two of them walked in UCLA runs.
Jake Godfrey relieved for Lingos tossing 1 1⁄3 scoreless innings, the Sun Devils (11-13, 1-6 Pac-12) were down 4-3, and everything unraveled. Facing 11 batters, Chris Isbell allowed five runs in the final inning with both of his walks coming in the ninth skyrocketing his ERA to 27.00.
In each inning the Sun Devils allowed a walk, a run scored en route to a 9-3 defeat.
Walks lead to runs. They lead to more pitches, more laziness on the field and ultimately more base runners, but Arizona State head coach Tracy Smith didn’t see free bases as the issue on Friday night.
“He wasn’t our problem tonight even with the inconsistent command,” said Smith. “Our issue right now is finding guys who can field a baseball and make a play.”
Between the lines of Friday’s run-polluted second and ninth innings, not only were there five walks, but two costly errors.
On a sharply hit grounder from the easiest out in UCLA’s lineup, Zander Clarke, shortstop Carter Aldrete misthrew a ball to Taylor Lane at third, putting runners at the corners with only an out. Clarke entered the game with a .125 batting average, the worst in the order.
That led to two straight RBI singles and an ominous RBI walk.
Four clutch UCLA hits led to the majority of the Bruins’ explosive, five-run ninth inning, but an error could have been avoided.
While left fielder Hunter Bishop had a two-RBI day at the plate against one of the Pac-12’s elite pitchers, Jake Bird (1.20 ERA), a ninth-inning error on a grounder that tipped off the front of his glove, springing away from his arm’s grasp, reminded Smith what his team needs to exercise.
“It’s just our issues to me aren’t the offensive piece, taking care of the baseball and then playing baseball at a higher level defensively,” Smith said. “Right now we’re not doing it. That is our issue.”
The Sun Devils have the second-worst fielding percentage (.963) and error total (34) in the conference coming into Friday night’s game against UCLA. Their 36 season errors almost doubles the Bruins’ season total of 19.
Smith and his young group will have some work to do, as ASU will try to even up the series on Saturday evening at 6:30 p.m.