It’s 17 games into the season and No. 25 Arizona State (17-0, 1-0 Pac-12) still hasn’t lost a game.
The Sun Devils came out on Friday night and shut out Washington State (6-11, 0-1 Pac-12) to kick off conference play.
Behind a quality start from junior pitcher Alec Marsh and a four-RBI night from sophomore third baseman Gage Workman, the Devils rolled. It wasn’t their most dominant performance of the year but it did more than enough to secure a 17th win.
“I’d give us a B,” said head coach Tracy Smith of how he would grade his team’s performance. “We played well offensively and we did grind out some at-bats but that’s probably our biggest thing. We let some at-bats get away. We gave a few away...But I thought for the most part, our pitchers were competing in the zone and we were making the plays behind them and we had some key hits.”
As for the biggest performers, Workman blasted his first two home runs of the year and he brought home four of ASU’s six runs.
“It’s nice because all of the guys were giving me crap because I hadn’t hit one yet,” said Workman of his two-homer night. “I’ll get that off my back a little bit.”
Smith said Workman had great batting practices during the week and it carried over to Friday. Along with his offense, Workman had a solid defensive play in the eighth inning when he turned a 5-3 double play in a first and second situation.
He snagged a short hop right in front of third base, stepped on the bag, then threw a strike on the run to first base to cap off an inning ending double play.
The offense put up six runs and had 13 hits but it wasn’t necessarily the bats that did the job. Including Workman’s, ASU turned three double plays. Redshirt sophomore catcher Sam Ferri also back doored a base runner at first base in the third inning.
Over the last couple seasons, defense has been an Achilles heel for ASU. You wouldn’t have been able to tell on Friday in the conference opener. As for the best highlight, that went to junior utility man Carter Aldrete, who turned a double play on a lined shot.
On a ball smoked off the bat of WSU freshman Kodie Kolden, Aldrete took one step to his right and dove to make a sprawling grab. With a runner on first, Aldrete sprung to his feet and doubled off the runner. It put a jolt into both Aldrete and Marsh on the mound.
“He (Aldrete) was jazzed but I was ecstatic,” said Marsh of Aldrete’s play.
Aldrete added to Marsh’s point.
“I think that’s why I get so juiced is because I know he’s juiced on the mound and I know he needed that,” Aldrete said. “...With Marsh on the bump, he’s our Friday guy and he’s our hot shot and all that, but we have gone through everything in this program together so for me to help him out even more so, it gives me that much more energy.”
Aldrete, who started the year in the outfield but has moved back to second base for the time being due to an injury to Drew Swift, embraces the role as well.
“It’s kind of like riding a bike. Once you do it enough, it never leaves you,” said Aldrete of stepping back into the infield. “Second base is my favorite position. I love having fun out there and being creative.”
Among other standouts, junior center fielder Hunter Bishop and sophomore left fielder Trevor Hauver both had two hits, and junior right fielder Myles Denson went 3-4. With Swift out and Aldrete moving to second base, Denson has continued to swing the bat well with a fresh opportunity to start everyday in right field.
On the mound, Marsh went into the seventh before giving way to senior Sam Romero. Romero closed out the final 2.2 innings and his performance held extra significance after Smith dug into his bullpen two days prior against New Mexico State.
“I thought as much as anybody’s performance tonight, he was key for our team” Smith said. “Our bullpen, guys have been used a lot. We said it would sure be nice to be able to rest those guys. Sam going and finishing out that game was key for us. Not only was it key for this game, more importantly it sets us up for a rested bullpen.”
With a rested bullpen, energy to begin conference play, and 17 consecutive wins, it’s back to work tomorrow as the Devils go for 18.
“There’s just good locker room energy right now,” Aldrete said. “That’s something that our class has worked on for three years and now that it’s here, we are just enjoying every moment of it.”
Marsh added to that comment.
“I’d say every game feels like the first game of the season right now,” Marsh said. “Especially because it was the beginning of Pac play, everybody was coming to the field with energy and it’s rubbing off on everybody.”