As the ball sprung off the bat of Loyola Marymount’s Nick Sogard into right field scoring the go ahead and winning run for the Lions, Sun Devil fans dropped to their seats as a roaring section of Lions fanatics jumped to their feet in celebration.
ASU reliever Reagan Todd dropped his head down to his neck in disbelief knowing he and the Sun Devils blew a 2-1 lead going into the ninth inning Saturday night.
It was a “heartbreaking” loss. The Sun Devils had just one more out to get before Phil Caulfield’s RBI triple and then Sogard’s game-winning base-hit, but to ASU head coach Tracy Smith, it was more than just the last inning that lost Arizona State (6-4) the game.
“That game wasn’t lost in the ninth inning,” Smith said. “That game was lost in our inability to extend the lead early in the game when we had multiple chances with runners in scoring position, or runners on third base and less than two outs and not scoring those guys.”
The Sun Devils left six runners on base on Saturday night and four of them were in the first three innings.
After a Lyle Lin RBI base hit in the first, the Sun Devils took a 1-0 lead. LMU tied the game at 1-1 in the fifth inning, then Andrew Snow grounded into a double play, that scored Gage Canning to go up 2-1. That one run lead stood just like Friday night’s 2-1 win, until the ninth inning.
“The same thing could have happened last night,” Smith said. “We were lucky last night and just weren’t lucky tonight, so we have to do a better job at extending the lead and cut the selfish at-bats down and put the baseball in play to score a run.”
ASU starting pitcher Stephen Van Scoyoc lasted five innings giving up four hits on just one earned run. But the freshman’s time on the mound was somewhat short-lived because of his five walks.
Van Scoyoc’s third start ended as his third no-decision this season.
“I thought he was good. He pitched around things, but he’s going to be more effective for us if he can get deeper into the ballgame and cut those walks down,” Smith said.
On the flip side, the Sun Devils were able to do some damage to LMU’s starter Brenten Arriaga, who had a 0.64 ERA, only allowing one run over 14 innings entering the game. ASU manufactured two runs off the left-handed ace, and was an out away from handing him his first loss on the season.
Lin was responsible for one of the two runs scored on Arriaga, and went 2-for-4, earning his seventh multi-hit game of the season.
“He’s a good hitter,” Smith said of Lin. “He’s hard on himself. He’s very critical, but I have a lot of confidence in him.”
Everything aside from the final result seemed to go the Sun Devils’ way, as it was also Arizona State’s first game in its last six without an error. The sound play is something Smith can find comfort in.
“Actually, I know this sounds crazy, I’ll sleep pretty well tonight,” he said. “If you play good defense and you pitch the baseball, you’re going to be on the winning side of the ledger more often than not.”