The storyline was paved for the Devils.
After trailing by three in the bottom of the sixth, back-to-back-to-back home runs from Trevor Hauver, Spencer Torkelson and Hunter Bishop knotted the game up at four. It painted the illusion that the ASU (27-6, 10-4) bats had come roaring back against a stout Beavers pitching staff and talented senior right-hander Bryce Fehmel.
But right when it felt that the momentum was about to swing, it came to a stalemate when Sam Ferri punched out with two on and two outs. Then an inning and a half later, it gusted back to the way of Oregon State (24-8-1, 10-4), who would prevail victorious 6-4 to even the series.
With the bases loaded and a two-strike count to left fielder Joe Casey, reliever Brady Corrigan got the left-handed hitter to check his swing on an off-speed pitch up in the zone, and it appeared that he had gone around on the swing.
But third base umpire William VanRaaphorst swung out both his hands, indicating Casey had not swung.
It caused an uproar of fury form the Phoenix Municipal Stadium crowd. They may have had a case, much like ASU manager Tracy Smith as it appeared that Casey did in fact break his wrists.
“I’m a little disappointed because it wasn’t close,” Smith said.
“Tough call, stuff like that happens. Got to make the next pitch, didn’t make it, ended up costing us a little bit but I’m not worried about it,” Corrigan added.
After the call, the marathon at-bat continued before Casey roped a two-RBI single to right field, and all of the momentum had officially table-topped off the Sun Devils side. As Andy Armstrong and George Mendazona stepped on the plate, the Beavers fist pumped and the dugout leaped out of their crouches.
“It just seemed like one of those nights, I thought we swung the bats really well I just thought we didn’t get the hits to show for it,” Smith said. “I thought [Corrigan] made the pitch he needed to and he didn’t get the call on a very clearly, non-check swing.”
It was only a two-run deficit with an offense that is as torturous as any in America due up two more times. But the lead almost felt insurmountable from a mental standpoint. However, the maroon and gold did not lose fight as they had two on and just one out in the eighth.
“I don’t think there was any quit, I thought they played with good intent,” Smith said.
That small flare was quickly blown out after Lyle Lin skied a pop-up into short right field, followed by Myles Denson’s attempt to tag from third, only to appear indecisive halfway to home. Tyler Malone gunned the throw in and Denson ended up being tagged out by Adley Rutschman as a result.
“A little bit of confusion,” said Smith on Denson tagging from third. “But that should not have happened.”
It is hard to allow a baseball game to be dictated off one call, let alone a ball or strike call. But with two top-ten teams battling out a vital conference series, sometimes it can be as minuscule as one pitch or a couple of inches on a ground ball.
“He hits it another foot the other way we’re out of the inning. It’s baseball,” Corrigan said.
Starter Boyd Vander Kooi was much improved since last weekend at USC, as tonight he kept his team in the game, allowing four runs in 6.2 innings. But while the offense strung together three straight sixth inning solo blasts, it was about they all they could muster. Arizona State again struggling to hit with runners in scoring position, going 0-for-6 on the night.
“I can’t sit here and say we had a bad approach, we hit balls hard and lined out all night, that’s all you can ask for,” Smith said.
The Devils will attempt to rebound from this game Sunday afternoon and win the series against the Beavers, which would be their first since 2015. First pitch is slated for 12:30 p.m.