For the first time since 2010, an Arizona State baseball program is 9-0 to begin its season.
The Sun Devils (9-0) slowly, but surely knocked out Michigan State (1-6) on Friday night. Junior center fielder Hunter Bishop had two home runs, and junior pitcher Alec Marsh hurled seven shutout innings in another strong performance.
After two scoreless innings to start the game, Bishop belted his first homer of the night, a three-run shot to right field.
“I felt like we were going to get to him (Michigan State’s starter). He was leaving some balls up and we were just missing them. No question, Hunter’s shot got us going a little bit and got the energy going in that dugout,” head coach Tracy Smith said.
The big fly got the Devils going, and it might have drawn some extra attention because of when it occurred. In a 3-0 count, Bishop got the green light to swing freely. He didn’t miss.
“I love the green light on 3-0 because you know it’s coming,” Bishop said. “I just kind of saw it and hit. It was middle in, that’s my favorite so it was good.”
The nod to swing 3-0 just proves how much confidence Smith has in Bishop as of late. He is now hitting just below .400 (.394) on the season, and the pairing of sophomore first baseman Spencer Torkelson next to Bishop could instill some fear in opposing pitching staffs if Bishop and his team continue to swing the bat the way they have been.
“Sometimes it takes guys a little bit longer to let the game come to them. He’s a talented player and has always been a talented player,” said Smith of Bishop’s growth. “I think maybe the difference is, guys grow up. He’s a junior now. This is what it’s supposed to look like. He’s relaxed and he’s comfortable in his own skin.”
For good measure, Bishop obliterated a second home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to put a cherry on top of an 8-0 victory.
BISH. BOMB. TWO.— Sun Devil Baseball (@ASU_Baseball) March 2, 2019
How about we raise you!?
113 MPH off the bat
450 (!!!) feet
8-0, Sun Devils!!! pic.twitter.com/HvG6lsALTG
Aside from the offense, Marsh was very strong against the Spartans. He threw seven shutout innings while striking out six batters and walking two. His ERA is now under one for the season.
However, what’s scary for opposing batters is what Marsh and Smith had to say after the game. Smith labeled himself as a tough critic after calling Marsh’s performance a B+. On par with his coach, Marsh said the same thing, and he still thinks he has room to get a lot better as the Sun Devils’ Friday night ace.
“That’s exactly what I was going to say,” said Marsh of Smith’s B+ grade. “I shook off a couple pitches that he was giving me that I shouldn’t have shook off and I just have to trust in everything. They are better at seeing hitters than me out there. For me...I am waiting for that A+ performance still.”
Senior pitcher Sam Romero came in to shut things down in the final two innings for ASU. Asides from Bishop and the pitching staff, another positive for a rolling Sun Devil squad was the play of junior outfielder Myles Denson, who finished the game going 2-4 with a double, a triple, and an RBI.
For a player who hasn’t seen consistent, everyday playing time as a starter, Denson has showed up when his number has been called upon over the last week.
“A couple nights ago, the last time I played, it really doesn’t matter if I am pinch-hitting or if I am going to start,” Denson said. “Every at-bat is extremely important so you got to take it for what it is.”
Junior infielder/outfielder Carter Aldrete came in from the outfield to play second base on Friday, leaving the outfield vacancy open for Denson. Sophomore second baseman Drew Swift had the night off.
Ultimately, the offense and Marsh stormed to a win as the game wore on. Torkelson and redshirt sophomore catcher Sam Ferri added in two-hit nights, and junior Lyle Lin had three hits in a game where he somewhat flew under the radar courtesy of Bishop’s two bombs.
With just one win, Michigan State isn’t exactly considered the biggest giant in college baseball out of the Big 10 Conference, but a win is a win and the Sun Devils continue to flex their muscles against non-conference opponents thus far. It will have to be seen what is made out of these early games later on, especially once conference play rolls around.
“It’s one game at a time. We are not talking about the future or the past,” Marsh said. “Just take it. You got to win tomorrow.”