PHOENIX — Lyle Lin’s first-career homer capped a two-RBI night that propelled Arizona State to a 5-4 win over the UCLA Bruins on Saturday night.
The Sun Devils (12-13, 2-6 Pac-12) scored all five of their runs between the sixth and seventh innings, and the output proved just enough to escape with their second conference victory of the year.
“When you pitch and you play defense — that’s the formula,” head coach Tracy Smith said. “You throw strikes, you play good defense, you’re probably gonna be in position to win a baseball game.”
While nine total runs and 21 total hits between the two teams will suggest otherwise, Phoenix Muni played host to what was a pitcher’s duel through the game’s first five innings.
The Sun Devils had a tough time at the plate against Bruins starting pitcher Moises Ceja. The senior right-hander tossed 5 2⁄3 innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits while striking out six and issuing no walks. He held ASU batters to one hit through four innings.
Having proven before he’s up to a challenge, Sun Devils starter Chaz Montoya matched Ceja’s showing. The true freshman, making his second-career start, tossed a career-high 6 1⁄3 innings, allowing three earned runs on six hits while striking out three batters and walking none.
“Just pound the zone,” Montoya said of his approach. “When I go out there, I’m going to compete and do everything I can to help this team win.”
The southpaw retired eight consecutive batters at one point, and struck out lead-off batters in three of the seven frames he opened.
“I thought he threw the baseball really, really well,” Smith said. “Guys like playing behind him because he pound the strike zone.”
The strong pitching performance from both starters made way for an explosive finish through the game’s final three innings.
In the sixth, the Bruins pushed across the first run of the contest on a two-out RBI single by center fielder Daniel Amaral, giving UCLA a 1-0 lead.
ASU’s offense responded with two runs in the bottom half of the segment, drawing even on first baseman Lyle Lin’s first-career home run, a solo shot over the wall in left field.
Smith said he initially thought it was a “no-doubt” home run that ended up being the difference in the outcome Saturday.
“That was the energizer for us, no question,” Smith said. “There wasn’t a lot of activity, a lot of life going on. He put a charge in the team.”
DINGER ALERT— Sun Devil Baseball (@ASU_Baseball) April 2, 2017
Tie game in Phoenix as @lin_lyle knocks his first career homer to left! @Pac12Network https://t.co/MKAtIG7Oni
ASU then took a 2-1 lead on an RBI triple by left fielder Ryan Lillard to close the frame.
The teams would trade runs once again in the seventh. An RBI double by third baseman Ryan Kriedler evened the score at 2-2, before a two-RBI double by catcher Daniel Rosica gave UCLA a 4-2 advantage in the top half of the inning.
Out of the stretch, two-out RBI singles from Andrew Shaps, Lin and Taylor Lane gave ASU a 5-4 lead.
Lane’s hit was his third of the night, batting in the cleanup spot after batting seventh on Friday.
“He’s swinging a good bat,” Smith said. “We wanna bring him up a little bit more and put more consistent ABs in that spot. I thought he looked really, really good tonight.”
“The main thing is getting my at-bats and feeling good,” Lane said.
The Sun Devils finished the evening batting 7-for-15 (.467) with two outs, 4-for-11 (.364) with runners in scoring position, and 6-for-13 (.462) with runners on base.
“If we keep hitting like we did tonight, we’re gonna have some success,” Montoya said.
The success, at least tonight, was not only immediate, but crucial in providing enough room for potential error on the mound.
Left-hander Connor Higgins , who had entered in relief of Montoya, was pulled after giving up back-to-back singles to lead off the top of the eighth.
Senior righty Eder Erives took the mound inheriting the trouble, and make quick work of the threat, inducing a fly out to center before starting a 1-6-3 double play to maintain ASU’s one-run lead.
.@lin_lyle with the strettttchhhhhhhhhh and it's a 1-6-3 GDP from @EderTwentyUno to escape the jam. @Pac12Network https://t.co/4SnISkLJLA— Sun Devil Baseball (@ASU_Baseball) April 2, 2017
Erives would concede a one-out walk in the ninth, but managed to capture the result for ASU, simultaneously registering his second save of the season in the process.
The Sun Devils will return to Muni with a chance to win the series against UCLA on Sunday afternoon, with the first pitch scheduled to be thrown at 12:30 p.m. PT. Freshman left-hander Spencer Van Scoyoc (0-1, 2.92 ERA) is expected to start for ASU.
- Catcher Zac Cerbo caught two runners stealing tonight. He threw out Sean Bouchard to end the top of the first, then Ryan Kreidler to end the top of the third. He is now up to six runners caught stealing, now a team-leading mark.
- Lyle Lin has reached base in 24 of 25 games this season, and 11-consecutive. He extended a career-long eight-game hitting streak on his first-career home run in the bottom of the sixth that tied the game.
- Smith said starting pitcher Chaz Montoya tweaked a muscle in his back, and the team debated pulling him out before he started the seventh, but “he’s fine” before describing him as an “anatomical anomaly.”