Big time players make big time plays.
Those were the words echoed by head coach Tracy Smith as sophomore slugger Spencer Torkelson drilled a three-run home run over the left field wall to give the Arizona State (10-0) an 8-5 win over Michigan State (1-8).
Torkelson stepped to the plate with two out and two on, following back to back singles from Sam Ferri and Trevor Hauver in the bottom of the 11th. After battling back in a two-strike count, he got a pitch up in the zone and didn’t miss it, equating to his second home run of the season.
“He’s a threat every time he comes to the plate,” Smith said. “There’s nobody on the planet that I would’ve rather had at the plate than that guy right there, and we’re hoping that’s the piece that jump starts him a little bit on the power front.”
“I kind of blacked out a little bit,” Torkelson said with a chuckle when talking about the home run. “It was just so much adrenaline and excitement.”
But the home run speaks volumes to the hitter the All-American is, even at the age of 19. If his gaudy .467 average and team-leading 21 hits do not do enough justice, simply observe his final two at-bats of the game.
Torkelson was at the plate in the bottom of the 9th with one out where he chased a high fastball out of the zone to punch out against Spartans left-hander Mitchell Tyranski, who was cruising in his long relief outing.
Two innings later, he delivered the dagger. But he wasn’t simply hacking away and hoping for the best at the first pitch he saw. He disciplined himself from the previous time around in just one lone at-bat and just under half an hour of time.
“I told myself to relax and trust my eye at first because I don’t swing at that pitch normally that I struck out on,” Torkelson said. “I kind of had that in the back of my mind of ‘don’t press you’re seeing him fine’”.
On the mound, Boyd Vander Kooi had another ho-hum outing in his third start of the season. The sophomore responded nicely from a first inning two-run blast he surrendered to Marty Bechina, as those were his only earned runs of the night. However, another two walks and a costly throwing error allowed the Spartans to re-tie the contest after ASU scored two runs in the third took the lead on a Trevor Hauver double in the fifth.
Aside from that, Michigan State starter Mike Mokma danced his way out of further trouble, especially as the game progressed. The junior retired Lyle Lin with two runners aboard in the fifth inning, and left Alika Williams stranded at second base a frame later.
Blake Burzell, Brady Corrigan and Erik Tolman combined to hurl the final six innings of work for the Maroon and Gold after Vander Kooi’s removal. Burzell pitched valuably, not allowing a single hit and striking out four batters after coming in with runners on base. Tolman too worked himself out of trouble after issuing a leadoff walk in the 10th.
“He made the pitches when he need to,” Smith said of Burzell’s outing. “This game of baseball is a lot of failure, so even if there’s a lot of crazy stuff going on behind you, you still can limit the damage. I thought he did a fantastic job of limiting damage and keeping it close.”
The other highlight of the night came from the right arm of Myles Denson, when he threw a laser from right field to nail the go-ahead runner at the plate to end the top of the 10th and keep the score at bay.
“That was the play of the game,” Smith said. “[Danny Gleaves] is the fastest guy on the planet right there. If he doesn’t make that throw we lose the game.”
ASU will play the third and final game of the weekend against Michigan State Sunday afternoon at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. The start time is set for 12:30 p.m.