The Sun Devils saw why baseball is considered a game of inches on Sunday. Freshman left fielder Spencer Torkelson connected on a ball in the seventh inning, sending it to center field for what looked like a potential three-run home run.
“Yeah, I did,” Sun Devils’ head coach Tracy Smith when asked if he thought Torkelson’s ball was gone. “That’s how baseball is. You’re three-feet away from sitting here with a smile on your face opposed to being pissed off. That’s just baseball.”
Smith and the Sun Devils were left disappointed as UNCW’s Noah Bridges pressed against the “410” sign to make the final out of the inning. Torkelson’s possible home run would’ve gave the Sun Devils a 4-3 lead. Instead, he become another number to Arizona State’s problem.
In the Sun Devils’ (8-8) 3-1 loss to UNC Wilmington (11-4), they went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Only one night removed after going 0-for-10 in the same situations in Saturday’s loss.
“The pitching we faced this past weekend it was a good team. The pitchers we faced were good at mixing it up with their pitches,” freshman right fielder Trevor Hauver said. “I felt that we squared the ball up pretty well today. Just didn’t get the timely hits we wanted. Just didn’t fall.
“Skip told us ‘we needed to continue to swing the bats and eventually they’ll fall. Not to hang your heads on this one and just keep moving to Tuesday.’ Our situational hitting has been great all year. Just one weekend. Got to move forward.“
The two biggest missed opportunities came in the fifth and seventh inning. Junior center fielder Gage Canning extended his hitting streak to 16 leading off the fifth inning with a double. However, Torkelson, sophomores first baseman Lyle Lin and designated hitter Carter Aldrete, could not bring him in to tie what was a 2-1 game at the time.
Canning, Lin and Torkelson also couldn’t come through in the seventh inning. The freshmen middle infield duo of Alika Williams and Drew Swift began the inning with back-to-back singles as they were left stranded at first and second.
Freshman Boyd Vander Kooi returned to the mound after a two-week absence on Sunday, giving the Sun Devils 5 2⁄3 innings. He allowed three runs (two earned) on eight hits. The right-hander wasn’t as speculation as his first two starts, but Smith had no complaints.
“Boyd competed.” Smith said. “He’s such a mentally strong kid. Was it his best stuff? No. But we’re saying it wasn’t his best stuff he still goes five and two-thirds after a two-week layoff punches out seven. Say not a bad outing and it’s just their pitching was a little bit better than ours today.”
On a brighter note, Williams, Swift and Hauver all had multi-hit games. Freshman Dellan Raish and sophomore Chaz Montoya allowed one hit and striking out six over 3 1⁄3 innings of relief.
Arizona State will host rival Arizona to open up conference play on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
“It’s going to be pretty exciting because I actually grew up a U of A fan. A lot of my family is from Tucson,” Hauver said. “We’re going play our best and I know it’s going to be a dog fight because it always is. My family in Tucson is going to be... hopefully wearing their ASU gear, but we’ll see.”