“We’re not a bad baseball team. We’re playing bad baseball right now.”
Arizona State (6-6) head coach Tracy Smith reflected after his team’s disastrous 10-4 loss to No. 7 Cal State Fullerton (6-4) on Tuesday night.
“No disrespect to Cal State Fullerton, but we gave it to them,” Smith said. “We just started their innings with walks. We jump started their innings with errors. We (didn’t) catch pop ups.”
Seven Sun Devil pitchers were expended. Six of them threw walks and the one who didn’t, James Ryan, earned the loss.
Tuesday’s starter Ryan Hingst (3.47 ERA) tossed three of Arizona State’s eight walks, and lasted 3 1⁄3 innings giving up one run on one hit. After his early exit came a long list of Sun Devil relievers with skyrocketing ERAs.
Eder Erives went 1 1⁄3 innings (9.00 ERA), then 1⁄3 inning from Connor Higgins (27.00 ERA), 1⁄3 from Chaz Montoya (14.29 ERA), one inning from Ryan (9.45 ERA), 2⁄3 inning from Alec Marsh (0.00 ERA), and finally Garvin Alston Jr. pitched the final two innings (15.03 ERA).
The bullpen’s main concern: walks.
“It doesn’t necessarily come down to mechanics. It comes down to just the concentration piece of it,” Smith said. “It seems like we’re around the zone and around the zone and then you go out and four-pitch walk. That’s just confidence again and execution.
“Clearly has to get better. It’s very very difficult to beat a team like Cal State Fullerton when you’re walking eight guys.”
While Hingst could have mitigated his bullpen’s woes by going longer, Smith deemed him a part of the relieving crew.
The skipper didn’t ask him to pitch long distance on Tuesday.
“We said today (to Hingst), ‘If you can give us one, give us one. If you can give us two give us two, three whatever,’” Smith said. “‘Don’t try to treat this with a starter’s mentality and save yourself because you’re going to be back in the bullpen this weekend.’”
Part of the bullpen’s lack of success has been due to injury. Highly-touted freshman Zane Strand has been ruled out for the season with an elbow injury, Chris Isbell has back spasms and Erives, who went 6-2 with a 2.95 ERA last season, had been out with a tender shoulder since pitching Opening Day.
Erives is back; not exactly back to last season’s form though. Against Loyola Marymount on Sunday, he threw 19 pitches getting just one out while allowing a home run. On 20 pitches in an 1 1⁄3 on Tuesday, he gave up two unearned runs on one hit.
“It’s a starting point to get him back out there. We’re going to need him to be good for us to be good,” Smith said. “He’s our veteran pitcher on the staff. He’s our oldest guy. He’s had success at this level.”
It’s simple for the Sun Devils. They’re aware walks hurt, but don’t plan on stopping now. Nearing the end of the non-conference schedule, Arizona State has eight days and four games until Pac-12 play to change it’s ways.
Right-hander Fitz Stadler, who’s been extracted from ASU’s bullpen to start Wednesday’s contest, has one walk over 9 1⁄3 innings and has posted a 2.89 ERA with a team-low .152 opposing batting average. Stadler will make his first start this season on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.
“It’s not real difficult to see where our problems are. We get it figured out on the mound, we cut the walks down, (then) we’re going to be a pretty good baseball team,” Smith said. “We’re 12 games in, nobody in that locker room has given up on this team.”