The long-awaited start to season for Sun Devil baseball arrived on Friday. The consensus top ten Arizona State (1-0) is known for its offense but it was the pitching that got it done against Villanova (0-1).
Of course first baseman Spencer Torkerlson added a home run in the team’s 4-1 win. The star of the night was left-handed JUCO transfer Justin Fall. In his Sun Devil debut, Fall was handed the ball to start. He went six shutout-innings allowing three hits and striking out six.
“It felt great to be out there,” Fall said. “I prepared well this week with (pitching coach) [Jason Kelly]. He really got us going as a staff this week and personally it felt really good to be out for the team and get us out to a 1-0 start.”
Fall received a no-decision for his efforts because outside of Torkelson’s blast, the bats stayed quiet for the early part of the game. Will Levine replaced Fall on the mound in the seventh and Villanova put together a rally to tie the game at one.
Arizona State finally woke up in the bottom half of the seventh to put together the three-run frame and the difference in the game. Backup catcher Nick Cheema pinch hit for Myles Denson and singled in the go-ahead run. Catcher Sam Ferri and designated hitter Hunter Jump added the insurance runs after that.
Coach Tracy Smith felt that with the tying run on third and less than two outs, Cheema’s skillset presented itself a better option at the time.
“We felt like that was clearly a huge run at third base,” Smith said. “We had runners on first and third, and the only thing that hurts you there is a ball on the ground. Nick’s a really good fly-ball hitter. Now he didn’t hit the fly ball there but he’s more of the fly-ball hitter than Myles is.”
Smith told Cheema he’d be called upon before the game if the situation was there and he took advantage of it.
“I was told I’d come in if there were people on (base),” Cheema said. “I was told to just be ready so I was in and out of the batting cages the past couple of innings and I was ready.”
R.J. Dabovich filled into his new role as the closer nicely. He set down each batter he faced and one on a strike out. Even more importantly is that Fall provided a quality start that the Sun Devils will need all season.
“It was good because he was cruising for a little bit but then he had to make some big pitches and get through a jam (in the sixth inning,” Smith said. “Early in the season you’re trying to learn about your team and I thought that was a pretty good moment for him. He didn’t have to use too much of his off speed stuff tonight, so that will kind of be the next step. He did exactly what we asked of him, to get us deep into the game so that was good.”
The Sun Devils have a doubleheader on Saturday in a rematch with Villanova at 12:00 p.m. before taking on No. 13 Michigan at 6:00 p.m.