Most ASU baseball games last over three hours. But if you’re impatient, just watch the first few innings — you will probably be able to tell who’s going to win.
In ASU’s last seven games, including its 12-1 loss to UCLA (15-4, 5-0 Pac-12) on Saturday, whatever team scores first wins the game. The common denominator in most of the Sun Devils’ successes and failures has been their start.
In their last two wins against Oregon last weekend — an 18-4 and 6-1 victory, respectively — the Devils (11-12, 3-2) bounced out to a first inning lead and never looked back. Their pitchers, trotting out to the mound with a lead, were never put into a stressful position. Their young hitters were able to swing away freely, not tempted to press.
That script just flips 180 degrees when Arizona State is on the wrong end of those early-inning runs.
In its last two games against UCLA, the Bruins have racked up a 4-0 lead and a 8-0 lead, respectively after just three innings of play. Their starters stymied ASU’s hitters while their offense continued to score in bunches.
On Saturday, ASU pitcher Boyd Vander Kooi, who came into the game with just a 1.07 ERA, had major command issues. Coming into the game, the freshman had only allowed a trio of earned runs in four games — on Saturday, though, he gave up seven earned runs on eight hits in just 2 1⁄3 innings of work.
He had a chance in the second to get out of the inning unscathed, but with two runners on, Vander Kooi threw a pair of wild pitches to Jake Hirabayashi. The first advanced both runners into scoring position, the second allowed one to cross the plate and give UCLA an early lead.
A few pitches later, Hirabayashi tattooed a pitch from Vander Kooi over the left field fence to give the omen as to the direction ASU’s day was headed. An inning later, the Bruins tacked on a quartet of hits and five runs split up between Vander Kooi and reliever Grant Schneider.
In total, the Sun Devils used five pitchers, and each gave up at least one earned run.
The lone ASU run came via a monster home run from right fielder Hunter Bishop in the sixth. Despite the Devils racking up seven hits, they failed to capitalize on numerous opportunities to bring a few runs across the plate.
Arizona State will now look at avoid the sweep tomorrow against UCLA at 12:00 MST.