At the conclusion of the Arizona State Sun Devils’ 13-4 loss to Cal State Fullerton - marking the second loss in as many days to the Titans - there wasn’t much positivity to be found.
Head coach Tracy Smith stressed the team’s lack of panic, but a four-game losing streak has the Sun Devils reeling as they prep for a three-game set against Long Beach State.
Fitz Stadler - pitching in his first start of the season - labored through two long innings and was pulled from the game after allowing seven runs in the first two frames. Grant Schneider was tagged for six runs on ten hits in relief of Stadler and the Sun Devil pitching staff continued its recent stretch of inconsistency.
That is, until Smith signaled to the bullpen for the third time on Wednesday night, summoning Tanner West into the game for the last 3 1⁄3 innings. The freshman left-hander - who had one inning under his belt as a collegian heading into Wednesday - settled into the game seamlessly, shutting the Titans out over the last third of the game and not allowing a single hit.
“I’m glad I got an opportunity,” West said. “I wanted to pick up Grant who had just come out, and I just wanted to get my team back in the dugout so we can hit.”
Despite the lopsided loss, the freshman’s performance didn’t go lost upon Skip.
“We’re still looking for some depth in the bullpen for the weekend, I think he certainly was a bright spot for us,” coach Smith said. “I still think he needs to be a little bit better on locating the baseball down but if throws the baseball like that with a little bit of conviction we feel like we’ve got another option out of the bullpen. Now the trick in this business - we’ve talked about this - be consistent. It’ll be interesting to see how he performs in his next outing.”
Coming into pitch against a CSU Fullerton team that had already sprayed 18 hits, West quickly found a groove and worked his way through the Titan lineup with only a hit batter staining an otherwise-perfect outing.
“I just found the pitches that were working tonight, the spots I was hitting. Fastball and change up, specifically,” West said. “I was just spotting up really well, just pounding the strike zone and throwing strikes.”
As ASU continues to be in limbo with its pitching staff, West will have the opportunity to play himself into more time if he can maintain the form he displayed Wednesday. The appearance was only the third of the season for West, and Smith mentioned the team’s trip to the Dominican Republic in December as a marker for the kind of production West can provide in the Sun Devil bullpen.
“He was like that down in the Dominican, that’s kind of how he threw the baseball prior to this season starting,” coach Smith said. “We haven’t seen that much out of him lately like that but it was good to see tonight for sure, something definitely to build off of.”
While West’s performance was encouraging, it wasn’t enough to prevent ASU from slipping in its fourth-straight outing. At 6-7 headed into this weekend’s series against Long Beach State, the Sun Devils still have yet to hit the panic button.
“The vibe’s really good in the clubhouse right now, we’re just having one of those rough patches,” West said. “But the team’s coming together, everyone’s working, everyone’s got each other’s back.”