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ASU Baseball: Offensive surge returns, bullpen holds on in gritty Sunday win from Sun Devils

Sun Devils ended a three-game skid on Sunday

Richard Martinez/ House of Sparky

Another Sunday outing pairs with another close-fought win for the Devils, with play being a little sloppier than what was expected. Regardless, a victory is a victory, and it was one that Arizona State (26-4, 9-3) on the final day of the weekend series. Two loud offensive outbursts in the fourth and fifth frames help ASU down the USC Trojans (12-18, 5-7) 11-8, to salvage the series by taking one of three.

More importantly, the bats came around early, finding its usual 2019 form. Two runs in the top of the first for the maroon and gold came around on an Alika Williams RBI groundout and a Carter Aldrete frozen rope up the middle.

The Trojans came into the contest 0-5 (now 0-6) when trailing after the first inning and the Sun Devils took advantage after failing to score in the first two frames in either of the first two contests.

“We’re not playing our best baseball right now,” head coach Tracy Smith said. “That said, you’ve got to come out of here with a win to keep yourself in [the thick of the Pac-12 race],” Smith said.

After a pair scored over the Trojans first two trips to the dish, the Devils turned scoring into surging. Nine runs were pushed across in the fourth and fifth innings where they flushed the storyline looming from the previous two games of the weekend, of squandering opportunities with runners on base. Trevor Hauver brought home two with a two-RBI base hit to left, breaking an 0-for-7.

Then came the crushing blow.

Spencer Torkelson, who had homered in Saturday’s game, made lightning strike twice. USC southpaw reliver John Beller was brought in to face Torkelson in the middle of a 2-0 count and the Sun Devil got the best of him, launching an opposite field bomb to right field that made it 7-2 ASU.

“Bringing in a lefty with a righty at 2-0, its like… thank you,” Torkelson said with a laugh. “I see lefties well. I knew he was going to go fast ball away or a hanging curveball, I was pretty comfortable.”

Both Smith and assistant coach Ben Greenspan predicted this surplus of power coming in the near future from Torkelson.

“It’s coming,” Smith said. “You can see it in batting practice, more comfortable, hitting more balls hard. Yeah, it’s coming.”

After the additional quartet of runs that came across in the fifth, the Sun devils lead 11-3. But problems had already arisen earlier in Sunday’s matchup for them, and it did not get easier from there.

Right-hander RJ Dabovich exited his start after just 2.1 innings due to what was described as a shoulder injury. He called the trainers out to the mound with an out in the third while shaking his right arm out and was quickly removed afterward.

No additional information on the injury was provided.

Brady Corrigan threw four innings in relief of Dabovich, and while it wasn’t his flashiest outing on paper, he preserved some quality innings. He allowed five earned runs, his highest total this season, but he left with ASU holding onto a four-run lead.

“To me Corrigan was the key to the game,” Smith said. “You look at the stat line and say ‘how is that possible’ but I think given the way of that win, he was the veteran that we were talking about.”

Enter Blake Burzell and things began to get tricky, after Chaz Montoya worked through an inning of his own. Burzell loaded the bases in the top of the ninth and his team leading by four before Smith had seen enough. He turned to his final hope, freshman Erik Tolman, to close out the game.

The lefty allowed a walk to his first batter, struck out the next, and then anxiously waited as cleanup hitter Matthew Acosta drilled one to right as Aldrete drifted in toward the baseball. He made an unorthodox diving catch to record the final out and clinch the win.

“Not much more pressure you can apply to a guy than that, but it was good for him to close it down,” said Smith of Tolman.

Aldrete had some defensive struggles through the weekend, including a misplayed ball leading to a Little League type home run Sunday, and a dropped pop fly that he and Bishop didn’t properly communicate on in Friday’s contest. But he turned it around to some extent to seal a win.

“That’s a play you’ve got to make,” Smith said. “Understanding which balls to dive on and which one’s not. I thought it was going to hang up enough for him and it did.”

The Sun Devils hit the road for a midweek series with UNLV before coming home this upcoming weekend against Oregon State. Tuesday’s first pitch is set for 6:05 p.m.