Arizona State had come off a demoralizing 4-2 Opening Day loss to Miami (Ohio) Saturday afternoon. Zoom further a few hours, and the Sun Devils were stuck in a hole, trailing again by two runs.
This time, it was in the third inning in the game two of Saturday’s doubleheader.
Sophomore third baseman Carter Aldrete got caught stealing. Sophomore catcher Lyle Lin came up to the plate with no runners aboard and one out. The Sun Devils needed a boost.
“We were down 3-1 that inning, then Lyle gets up, hits a bomb, and I’m like ‘oh, my turn.’” said freshman designated hitter Spencer Torkelson, who followed Lin, hitting back-to-back home runs to tie the game at 3-3. “It was pretty special. You know, the feeling,”
“Big momentum in the bullpen. I mean we were so lit,” freshman right handed reliever Sam Romero said.
That momentous episode carried the Sun Devils to a 7-3 win over Miami Saturday night, as Junior starting left handed pitcher Eli Lingos and Romero didn’t allow another run through the final six innings.
In Arizona State’s 4-2 game one loss, the Sun Devils went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. They were accredited to three errors. And sophomore starting left-hander Spencer Van Scoyoc allowed six walks — the most ever in his career when starting a game.
Game two was a chance to erase those woes. Following a season where ASU baseball had its worst win percentage in program history, losing both games to Miami, a mid-major MAC conference program, would only dampen the tone a day into the season. That 7-4 gave reason for exuberance.
“We got a lot of young guys. We’ve got a lot of guys who press. They want to get the bad taste out of their mouth,” ASU manager Tracy Smith said. “I think you had a lot of heart rates pounding tonight.
“I’m looking forward to us just going to settle in and play baseball. And let those nerves and first game, or first couple game jitters get out of the way.”
The Sun Devils were 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position in game two, but that didn’t matter. Three of ASU’s runs came on solo shots — two from Torkelson — while the two came on RBI singles and two more from a Miami throwing error.
Regardless, ASU’s pitching outdid the RedHawks Saturday night.
Aside from a three-run third inning, Lingos and Romero combined for eight shutout frames. Lingos struck out six on five hits in six innings. Romero struck out three on two hits. In the final five innings, no Miami player made it past second base.
“He’s a guy we trust,” Smith said of Romero. “We’re still trying to define roles. You know, who keeps taking the ball and doing a good job. He’s going push us. It’s good to see that.”
On the subject of roles, Smith hasn’t decided on a starting left fielder. Two freshmen started in left on Saturday.
“[Trevor] Hauver and [Scott] Mehan have been most consistent. I liked both of their at bats tonight,” Smith said. “We’ll keep playing that out. We’ve got some time. That’s why we got to learn the personnel early, so we get it down when it counts.”
Hauver went 0-for-4 in game one, while Mehan scored a run, going 1-for-3 in the evening.
On Sunday, freshman right-handed pitcher Boyd Vander Kooi will make his starting debut. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Mesa native went 27-2 with a 2.09 ERA at Skyline High School. His teammates are confident he’ll perform.
“Mentally, he’s ahead of the game. He’s ready to go,” Romero said. “He’s not going to look like a freshman out there tomorrow. I guarantee it.”
“He doesn’t look like a freshman anyways,” Torkelson added.
Smith did not tell who will start game two of Sunday’s doubleheader. The first pitch of game one Sunday comes at 10 a.m. with an another tilt following 45 minutes after.