It was a run parade for the UCLA Bruins who hustled around the bases as though they were college basketball players up and down the court on the Final Four’s hardwood in just 23 miles northeast of Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
Arizona State (12-14, 2-7 Pac-12) lost 17-4 to UCLA, unable to capture its first Pac-12 series win, after dropping Sunday afternoon’s rubber match.
Five Bruins circled around the diamond, as ASU starter Reagan Todd battled through the first inning. It took the left-hander seven batters to secure the first out of the inning, already with the Sun Devils drowning in runs, 5-0.
“I thought we did a really poor job to set the table,” said ASU manager Tracy Smith. “It was even a little evident in pregame... When I watched infield, I could tell right then. We pulled them into the locker room and said ‘this isn’t right.’”
In just 1 2⁄3 innings, right-hander Ryan Hingst allowed three runs before his replacement, also a righty, Alec Marsh, gave up five.
Garvin Alston allowed no runs over his first two innings before the Bruins piled on three more in the top of the ninth inning. Grant Schneider finished off the rest of the contest giving up no runs to end the top of the ninth.
“There was a big separation [in runs] pretty darn quickly,” Smith said. “When we’re chasing so many runs, it just got away in a hurry.”
All nine starting batters earned hits for UCLA, and 16 of the Bruins’ 17 runs came in the first five hitters in the lineup.
In Arizona State’s lineup, just four batters earned hits.
Two of Arizona State’s seven hits cleared the fences. Andrew Shaps rocketed a solo shot over the deep right-center field wall and Zach Cerbo’s solo home run was knocked over opposite field to straightaway right field.
Cerbo, who caught all 27 innings of the series and along with his home run, went 2-for-4 with a double in the series finale.
“One of the positive takeaways from this weekend is Zach Cerbo being a senior,” Smith said. “He lays it on the line. I don’t think anyone could question whether that kid was in the game from start to finish. And we need more guys doing that.”
The Sun Devils’ third and fourth runs came in the eighth inning off an RBI double from Tyler Williams and Taylor Lane scoring on a fielding error on a sharply hit ball from Jackson Willeford.
UCLA starter Jon Olsen’s crafty mound work was much of the reason for Arizona State’s quiet day at the plate. The right-handed sophomore gave up two runs on three hits in 6 2⁄3 innings.
“It seems like we’ve been playing from behind early a lot. It’s tough on the offense,” Smith said. “There’s a difference between hitting in a game and the pitcher on the other side, and which we haven’t done a lot is have our pitchers pitch with a lead. They’re a lot more comfortable.”
Taylor Lane, who went 5-for-8 with a run and an RBI in the series’ first two games, failed to earn another multi hit game, finishing 1-for-3. Gage Canning, who entered the contest on a five-game hit streak, struck out swinging twice going 0-for-2 as well in Sunday’s defeat.
It was Arizona State’s largest losing margin since falling 18-4 to then-No. 20 Oklahoma State on Feb. 21, and its worst Pac-12 loss since getting blown out 31-9 in the final game of 2016’s regular season against USC.
The Sun Devils look to regain momentum moving further into conference play on Tuesday at 7 p.m. when ASU visits Arizona (19-7, 4-4) who ranks fifth in the conference.
“For us right now, the position that we’ve put ourselves in, much like last year,” Smith said. “It was about this time. We don’t have a lot of margin for error in terms of the NCAA tournament, so every game is important, we just talked about that. Every game is basically our national tournament.”