Los Angeles — It may not seem like it when the Devils are playing good baseball and getting wins, as they did three times against Oregon last weekend, but Arizona State (11-11, 3-1 Pac-12) is still young. It started six freshman Friday against UCLA (14-4, 40), including sporting an all-freshman infield.
Errors are going to develop, mishaps are going to happen, slumps are going to transpire, but with each experience and each game, the Devils’ youth will develop and learn.
On Friday at Jackie Robinson Stadium in Los Angeles, Arizona State experienced something no player, nor team, ever wants to go through: being on the wrong side of a walk-off.
Inheriting runners on second and third with one out in the 10th inning, Fitz Stadler grabbed the ball from ASU skipper Tracy Smith trying to operate in a jam.
He threw just two pitches.
The first to UCLA Kyle Cuellar hit catcher Lyle Lin’s glove. The second hit the gap in right-center field. Ballgame.
In their first Pac-12 road game this season, the Sun Devils were forced to watch as the Bruins exploded out of their dugout to mob Cuellar as he rounded second in their 5-4 victory. As they dodged the flurry of incoming blue, some of the Devils just turned their back.
Others, like third baseman Gage Workman, flashed a glance at the first collegiate walk-off he’s ever been apart of. Maybe it’ll be motivation going forward. For the rest of the season. For the rest of the series.
UCLA walks it off in the 10th. Bruins grab the 5-4 victory pic.twitter.com/c3cNpteP0u— Jordan Kaye (@jordankaye_23) March 24, 2018
The fact that ASU was even in that position, though, was remarkable. For six innings, the Sun Devils couldn’t overcome their quartet of errors early on. UCLA pitcher Jake Bird took full advantage of his run support and retired the first 10 betters he faced, including getting the first six all to ground out.
Then the seventh inning rolled around.
Maybe ASU got used to the breeze coming off of the Pacific Ocean. Or it had Bird’s number after seeing him two previous times. Or, in first baseman Spencer Torkelson’s case, maybe he wanted to get the monkey off his back.
Coming into the game, Torkelson already had 10 home runs. HIs next was going to tie Barry Bonds’ ASU freshman record for most home runs. And after observing Jackie Robinson Field’s dimensions, it seemed like the freshman had a pretty good chance to get it done this weekend.
The dimensions at UCLA's Jackie Robinson Stadium (330-395-330) are significantly shorter than Phoenix Muni (345-410-345). Everything is set up for Spencer Torkelson to tie Barry Bonds' freshman home run record with his 11th jack, if not break it this weekend.— House of Sparky (@HouseOfSparky) March 24, 2018
Despite ASU’s offense showing no life, Torkelson put his name next to Bonds’. Sparking the Devils’ offense in the process.
Spencer Torkelson has just tied Barry Bonds’ freshman home run record with his 11th blast of the season. Oh, it’s also only game #22 pic.twitter.com/e4AifmDBQS— Jordan Kaye (@jordankaye_23) March 24, 2018
The next batter, Carter Aldrete, singled up the middle. Hunter Bishop managed to bring him around two batters later as the Devils pulled within two. Then a youngster — freshman Alika Williams — stood in the box with just a strike to give and delivered another RBI-single to score Hunter.
Torkelson would tie the game in the 8th with a sac fly, but the Devils’ offense failed to capitalize after that. In a pleasant change for ASU fans, the Devils bullpen kept them in the game. Relievers Brady Corrigan —who only gave up one hit in 5 2⁄3 innings — and Chaz Montoya, who kept the 8th and 9th innings scoreless before allowing the eventual winning run aboard in the 10th.
But, the hefty handful of sloppy plays in the first two innings forced ASU to claw themselves back into a game that it would have otherwise won.
The youth and inexperience that went unnoticed a week ago was on full display as the Devils started the game with as many errors (4) as outs (4).
The string of mishaps got rolling when UCLA employed its double-steal in the first. Lyle Lin, trying to nail the runner at third, sailed his throw deep into right field as both Bruin runners came around to score.
The second ASU hazard that allowed UCLA to tack on runs came just an inning later as Daniel Amaral dropped a perfect squeeze bunt down the third base line. ASU third baseman Gage Workman didn’t have a sure-fire out at home, so he tried for the out out first.
He didn’t get it. Like Lin, Workman sailed his throw into the outfield as a pair of Bruin runners came around to give UCLA a early 4-0 lead.