Alec Marsh fired in his 1-2 pitch with aspirations of his first strikeout of night. Instead, the delivery caught too much of the plate and Beaver left fielder Alex McGarry crushed a solo shot toward the Phoenix Municipal Stadium digital scoreboard.
As McGarry rounded the bases for the sixth time this season, Marsh received the new baseball from his battery partner Sam Ferri. Tracy Smith’s Friday night starter had no time to dwell on the fact the defending champs had taken an early 1-0 lead in the second inning.
“Sam told me it was a good pitch, the guy just cheated it and got it. Good for him, it’s going to happen. It’s just flushing that and getting the next guy,” Marsh said.
He watched McGarry touch the plate and Marsh went back to work.
On three pitches, Marsh sat down Oregon State second baseman Matthew Gretler for his first strikeout. He’d be the first of many Marsh mowed down. The ace of Arizona State retired 21 of the next 24 Oregon State batters.
Behind his complete three-hit game, No. 13 Arizona State (27-5, 10-3 Pac-12) won 4-1 over No. 4 Oregon State (23-8-1, 9-4).
“He was dialed in. He was making quality pitch after quality pitch even when he fell behind a couple of hitters to battle back,” head coach Tracy Smith said. “That was an exceptional performance by him.”
Besides a blooper from right fielder Tyler Malone, the three batters that reached against Marsh after the home run, Marsh found a way to get them out. He walked McGarry in the fifth, but after a phenomenal pickoff move, all McGarry could do was stand back up and head toward his dugout after Spencer Torkelson applied the tag. Marsh erased a single from shortstop Andy Armstrong after he induced center fielder Kyler McMahan to hit into a double play.
For Marsh, all his pitches were working. Earlier on his changeup wasn’t on point, but he found it later on. His slider looked good, but in his mind his curveball was the difference maker for a lot of his nine strikeouts. A uppers-70s curve froze designated hitter Joe Casey and Marsh, as he did for most of the game, displayed another tier of energy he hadn’t before on the rubber.
“It’s something I’ve been visualizing all week because it’s something we need. A little more energy, a little more focus,” said Marsh on his energy. “It starts with everything on the mound, first pitch [to the] rest of the game. If I’m good, everyone else is good will follow along. It’s definitely something that felt really good and our team followed suit. No one lost focus for anything or a single pitch which is good.”
Even more impressive, 100-plus pitches in, Marsh pumped 96 on his fastball in the ninth. His desire to throw a complete game fueled an extra bit of adrenaline behind his heater.
Marsh said he never looked at the score. It didn’t matter that he was facing the fourth-ranked club in the nation, nor the fact that they were the defending champs. He didn’t care who stepped into the box to face him, even if it was Oregon State’s catcher Adley Rutschman, who will potentially be the top pick in the MLB Draft in June.
“I was really excited because I know I’m good too,” said Marsh on facing Rutschman. “It’s always fun when you get those guys coming through...you try to give them your best stuff. I’m just in the mind set of ‘you’re not going to hit my stuff,’ I’m going to give you as best as I can and if he does [get a hit], he does. I’m doing my best to challenge you.”
At the plate, ASU quickly answered back in the bottom half of the second inning with two runs of their own. Oregon State stater Brandin Eisert had entered Friday’s contest with a 0.75 ERA. Although, after three first-inning walks (he’d only allowed five before Friday) it was clear Eisert didn’t have his best stuff.
Trevor Hauver stepped to the plate with runners on second and third. Eisert fell behind Hauver 3-1 in the count, he challenged the sophomore left fielder with a fastball. Hauver responded with an RBI-single into right. Torkelson followed with his 40th RBI via a single after he found a hole in the left side with three infielders there.
“They’re one of the top pitching staffs in the country, they’re a good pitching team,” Hauver said. “We knew that we were going to have to [go] against that guy [Eisert] — he’s been lights out all season, we knew that we were just going to have to battle and scrap through and get some runs.”
Hauver added another RBI later with a bases loaded walk. Third baseman Gage Workman also drove in a run in the fifth.
Despite the fact that Eisert allowed a season-high 11 hits against Arizona State, he continued to get out of jams as ASU went 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position. Smith credited that more to Eisert’s talent than Arizona State not converting.
The Sun Devils in the end could’ve scored more, but it’s hard to be upset at scoring three runs versus a guy who had allowed three runs in his previous 36 innings this season.
Behind Marsh’s dynamic outing, Arizona State has a chance to take the series from Oregon State on Saturday for the first time since 2015. They’ll attempt to win game two behind Boyd Vander Kooi with first pitch slated for 6:30 p.m.