ASU sophomore pitcher Spencer Van Scoyoc was just a few moments removed from being visited from pitching coach Mike Cather. Van Scoyoc had just sailed a pitch over the head of catcher Lyle Lin, continuing his shaky command in the Devils 6-1 loss to Saint Mary’s (3-2).
But Cather’s visit seemed to be easing the youngster’s nerves as Van Scoyoc got Saint Mary’s Edward Haus to look at strike three following the conversation.
The Phoenix Municipal Stadium crowd started in a collective applause, which may have been coming sarcastically as the innings first out came with its third batter. But the applause, like Van Scoyoc’s night, came to an early end.
The strikeout would be the last out for the Friday starter who, after 2.1 innings of work, gave up three earned runs on two hits. But perhaps most damaging to Van Scoyoc, and ASU’s (2-3), night was the pitcher’s command.
“Sometimes you’ll see guys throw in the bullpen, and its boom, boom, boom. And then your heart rate elevates, I don’t know,” Sun Devil head coach Tracy “Skip” Smith said. “We expect more out of that on a Friday night start, and unfortunately he didn’t have it,”
Friday marked baseball movie night at Phoenix Muni, and Van Scoyoc was showing flashes of Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn from Major League. The Cedar Rapids, Iowa native walked four batters and recorded two wild pitches in an outing that saw him throw 31 of his 63 pitches for balls.
The strikeout wasn’t the epiphany that cured Van Scoyoc’s command. He walked the next batter he faced to load the bases, and the one after that got a free pass to first as well after getting hit.
Van Scoyoc didn’t look like a Friday starter. And after the game Smith seemed ready to reevaluate his role.
“This is a results-oriented business, you’ve got to do the job, players, coaches, everybody. We’re going to need that young man, we are,” Smith said of Van Scoyoc. “But, maybe its not on Friday night.”
Just as in Van Scoyoc’s first start of the season — a 4-2 loss to Miami (OH) — the Devils out-hit their opponents. Arizona State had one more hit (7) than the Gaels (6), but its failure to string a few together kept them virtually off of the scoreboard.
And of the Devils seven hits, Lin and Gage Canning combined for six of them — including a trio of doubles. Beyond that, though, Saint Mary’s pitcher Nick Frank — who pitched 7.1 innings, only giving up one run — made the Sun Devil hitters look like “high school guys,” according to Smith.
Arizona State’s offense didn’t come to play Friday but its defense never gave it a shot. The Devils’ defense let bunts turn into hits, and ultimately RBIs.
In the third inning that ultimately cost the Devils, Van Scoyoc couldn’t make a routine out at first and got pegged with a throwing error. Instead of facing a manageable situation of a runner on third with one out, Van Scoyoc had to manage a first and third predicament with zero outs.
“The margin of error, particularly with a young team, is really, really small,” Smith said. “And when we’re giving free bases and then, tonight, not getting two outs on bunts — it’s just some of our immaturity is showing. You turn a one-run inning into a multiple run inning.”
To an extent, some of the early errors and mishaps were to be expected. ASU is young. It started five freshman on Friday and had another — reliever Dellan Raish — trot out from the bullpen. Smith made it a point after the game to say that he doesn’t want young guys to lose confidence.
“We’re going to have to live with some of these growing pains,” Smith said. “I don’t like it, you don’t like it, fans don’t like it, but we’re going to have to live with some of these growing pains because, what have they played, five baseball games in college, the majority of our team. That’s the tough part.”
The Sun Devil skipper tried to stay positive after the game about his team that just fell below .500. But for an ASU team that will rely on youth this season, watching its freshman go 1-15 at the plate against a West Coast Conference team isn’t ideal.
“I just said to them, I know this team’s going to be good,” Smith said. “But it’s going to take some execution. I think once they settle in and understand the college game, this group’s going to take off.”