Coming off a five-hour marathon that featured a dramatic comeback against an in-state rival on Sunday afternoon, No. 7 Arizona State (25-2, 8-1 Pac-12) was right back to work on Tuesday night at Phoenix Muni.
With a chewed up bullpen that used seven different pitchers on Sunday, the Devils dug deep into their staff to try and pull out a win against Long Beach State (4-23). Unfortunately for ASU, the efforts weren't enough and they fell 14-9 to the Dirtbags, sustaining just their second loss all season.
“I had a bad feeling about this game all day today, I really did,” head coach Tracy Smith said. “I know that’s a good opponent and I knew we were a little shorthanded on the mound.”
ASU freshman pitcher Dom Cacchione got the nod for his first collegiate start. It was short lived. He walked the first two batters he faced and lasted only one third of an inning.
Sophomore pitcher Colby Davis then entered out of the bullpen. ASU ended up allowing four runs in a long first inning.
Through the whole game, the Sun Devils allowed 12 walks and three wild pitches. Out of the 14 LBSU runs scored, seven of them came to cross home plate after a free pass.
“This game is pretty simple when you get down to it. It’s about throwing strikes, playing defense behind, and then get a timely hit,” Smith said. “Seven guys tonight didn’t have to do anything to get on base...By my math, if they have to earn their way on, we probably win that baseball game.”
The free passes and the big inning eluded ASU on Tuesday. Long Beach State scored four runs in the first inning, five runs in the second, and four more in the fifth. The big frames added up and damage control was difficult due to self-inflicted mishaps on the mound.
There were also two Sun Devil errors that occurred in long innings out on the field. Despite a potent offensive lineup that out hit the Dirtbags 12-10 and put up nine runs, the deficit was too much to make up for ASU’s hitters.
“I felt like when they went up in the first, I felt like our hitting was really good and we knew that we were going to come back,” said sophomore left fielder Trevor Hauver. “I think that they just put up that other big spot and I feel like we all kind of mentally checked out, which we shouldn’t have.”
Hauver ended up with a remarkable night that was brushed over in the loss. He was a whooping 5-6 with two doubles out of the leadoff spot.
Along with the outfielder, sophomore shortstop Alika Williams had a three-RBI double in the eighth inning. Both players had solid nights but the big deficits became too much to overcome as a whole.
ASU had four runs after three innings but the bats were quiet all the way through the seventh inning. A five-run eighth pulled things closer but it was too little, too late.
“I think today we were kind of flat with just keeping energy in any game we play,” Williams said. “Those were a few of the things that I am taking away from it (the game) at least.”
One of the few bright spots on the mound was freshman pitcher/infielder Marc Lidd, who threw three shutout innings to help preserve the bullpen in the later innings.
Smith noted he was pleased with Lidd’s performance and he liked the way he competed and threw strikes.
Ultimately, the loss could have been a byproduct of Sunday’s rollercoaster of a game against Arizona. Long Beach State was 3-23 going into Tuesday’s game but they have played plenty of legitimate foes.
They have the 68th best strength of schedule according to D1Baseball.com, and they have played against No. 2 UCLA, No. 3 Florida, No. 23 TCU, and No. 10 Ole Miss.
Regardless, the defeat doesn’t look great, but one bad loss is bound to happen over the course of a demanding college baseball season. There’s no reason to hit the panic button. To put ASU’s loss in perspective, 11 other ranked teams lost in midweek games on Tuesday night.
Smith called Tuesday’s loss a “reality check,” but the team will learn from it. The Devils will look to hit the reset button on Friday against USC.
“If we are going to have a bad game and have a disaster like we did tonight, it was a good thing it happened in non-conference,” Smith said. “I know people will make a big deal out of 4-23 but we said these guys are better than 3-23 coming into the game. That record thing doesn’t matter. If you don’t play well and you don’t take care of business, you are going to lose.
If you are going to have a breakdown like tonight and you were to ask me if you’d rather have it on the weekend or midweek, I’d rather it happen tonight. We can learn something and take away from that and maybe learn something from our personnel, then we will use that down the stretch.”