The numbers just weren’t there for Arizona State’s baseball team on Tuesday night.
There were two dropped pop-ups, seven pitchers on the mound, eight walks issued, and 10 runs allowed.
The miscues added up to a 10-4 loss to No. 7 Cal State Fullerton in the first of two midweek games against the club’s developing rivals from Southern California. The defeat also marked the third straight loss for the Sun Devils (6-6).
“It’s going to be very difficult to beat a team like Cal State Fullerton when you walk eight guys,” said head coach Tracy Smith after the defeat. “Those things obviously have to get better. These guys are better than what they’re doing right now.”
Just as they did in the first two games of this losing streak, Smith’s club jumped out to an early lead that they ultimately wouldn’t be able to hold. The team drew first blood on a pair of RBI singles from Lyle Lin and Carter Aldrete in the bottom of the first, then tallied two more runs to take a 4-1 lead into the fifth inning.
B4 | #AnotherOne#Devils up 4-1 courtesy of @ashaps08.@Pac12Networkhttps://t.co/uV6QHHJvhQ— Sun Devil Baseball (@ASU_Baseball) March 8, 2017
Unfortunately for Arizona State, those were the last runs it would score.
That was also the time the bullpen started to fall apart as the Titans (6-4) struck for a pair of runs in both the fifth and seventh frames, sandwiching the outbursts between a sixth inning in which they also added a single run.
The visitors from Fullerton found success against nearly every reliever thrown onto the mound by Smith, taking advantage of a group filled with young and tired arms.
Senior Eder Erives was the first one out of the bullpen, eventually allowing two runs (both unearned) on one hit in 1.1 innings of work. The outing was actually considered a minor victory for the right-hander after struggling mightily throughout the first few weeks of the season.
“His velocity was down a little bit, but that was a good starting point,” Smith said. “We’re going to need him to be good for us to be good though. So that was better than what it has been, but I think he would tell you that he still has more in the tank.”
The men who followed Erives out of the bullpen did not find as much success. A pair of sophomores, Connor Higgins and James Ryan, combined to give up three runs in a little over an inning on the bump to give Cal State Fullerton the lead for good.
The Sun Devil bats then went quiet in the contest’s final few innings, and the air was taken of their tires when the Titans exploded for four runs off of southpaw Garvin Alston, Jr. in the top half of the ninth.
That made the final score 10-4, marking the team’s second biggest defeat of the season. But while the loss may have been disheartening, Smith says these stretches and lulls are just a part of baseball.
“The message to the team is that if you’re going to let three losses in a row affect who you are as a player, you need to find a different profession,” said Smith. “If you think you’re going to make a career out of this and let three baseball games define who you are and who we are, you’re in the wrong program. You’ve got to learn how to handle adversity.”
The first three-plus weeks of the year have been filled with adversity, whether its been in the form of losses, suspensions, or injuries.
Nevertheless, Arizona State does have a roster filled with talent and potential, so there is some light at the end of the tunnel.
“We’re not a bad baseball team,” Smith said. “We are just playing bad baseball right now. It’s that simple.”
The Maroon and Gold now have seven games remaining in this challenging homestand, starting with another contest against Cal State Fullerton before series against a solid Long Beach State team and No. 4 Oregon State.
With the schedule only getting tougher from here, figuring out how to play good baseball definitely won’t come easy.