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ASU Baseball: No. 9 Sun Devils fall to Villanova, No. 13 Michigan

Runs were hard to come by

Richard Martinez/House of Sparky

Game One vs Villanova

Junior right-handed pitcher Boyd Vander Kooi took the mound in the first game of the doubleheader. In his first start of the season, he went 7.2 innings, giving up six hits, two runs (one earned), walking two and striking out five.

His performance wasn’t enough as he walked away the losing pitcher, in a 2-1 loss to Villanova (1-1).

“I felt great,” Vander Kooi said after the doubleheader. “It is my third year, my freshman year being nervous and everything, but I just trusted my ability to attack the zone and stick with the plan.”

Vander Kooi alluded to this performance being one of his more efficient games at Arizona State, and he mentioned the game plan.

“In the scouting report of Villanova, they are a big-pitch swing team,” Vander Kooi said. “I threw probably 75 percent sinkers off of my fastball and basically letting them hit it into the ground.”

For five innings, both Vander Kooi and Villanova pitcher Gordon Graceffo shut down the opposing bats. Once the sixth inning came around, the Wildcat batters were able to get two runs on the board by a fielder’s choice and a late tag on a double play.

The Sun Devils were able to answer right back on a home run by junior first baseman Spencer Torkelson. Torkelson would later be intentionally walked in his next two plate appearances.

The rest of ASU’s bats were silent. As a team, they went 3-30 and struck out six times. They were able to put men on the base paths with nine walks but couldn't make anything happen.

“For me, I would probably just call it baseball,” Torkelson said. “Three games into the season, no panic. Balls aren't finding holes, not finding gaps but just like this game, we found a couple of barrels and it’s just a matter of time before they fall.”

ASU had one final chance in the ninth inning to tie or win the game. Down to its last out, the team was able to load the bases off a Sam Ferri single and walks by Hunter Jump and Torkelson.

Junior left fielder Trevor Hauver stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and the crowd behind him cheering. He worked an eight pitch at-bat, but ultimately struck out swinging.

Game 2 vs. Michigan

Arizona State (1-2) didn't have much time to mull over its upset loss at the hands of the Wildcats, with the No. 8 Michigan Wolverines (3-0) coming into Phoenix Municipal Stadium in a hurry.

In a top-10 matchup, manager Tracy Smith turned to freshman left-hander Cooper Benson to start.

“The fact that we didn't play really well behind him at times and it didn't rattle him,” Smith said. “Even after the solo homer by Zimmerman, he came back in and settled in and got those guys.”

Benson wasn’t the only left-handed freshman making his first career start. Michigan’s Steve Hajjar also took the mound. Benson retired his first six batters with two strikeouts and Hajjar struck out three while walking one and giving up a single.

Michigan’s Danny Zimmerman was the first Wolverine batter to get to Benson. Zimmerman belted a solo shot to open the scoring for College World Series runner-ups from last year.

Benson would settle himself back into the game after the solo shot and strike out the next two batters.

“I loved his mentality,” Smith said. “We didn’t help him on the defensive side and we certainly didn’t help him on the offensive side, but it didn’t faze him. He kept doing his job, which is to give his team chance to win and we did not do that for him today, but I liked his composure.”

The Wolverines scored two more runs off Benson in the fifth and sixth innings. He would be pulled after 6.1 innings of work. His first career start ended in a loss, but Benson felt good about his eight-strikeout performance.

“I think it went good,” Benson said. “I think I attacked most of the hitters and I guess it just didn't go our way tonight, but I was proud of the way I pitched and felt like if I do that every time, we will have a pretty good chance to win every time.”

Michigan was able to take advantage of ASU’s struggles at the plate as they added on two more runs to rack up five on the Sun Devils.

Michigan would walk away with the 5-0 victory after ASU failed to bring anyone in during the ninth inning.

Smith pointed out that it is three games into the season, and he isn't worried about the offense.

“It’s three games in and it is certainly not a time to panic,” Smith said. “You don’t like it. Losing isn't fun but when you score one run in 18 innings, that’s pretty tough to win. The good part about that is, I'm pretty confident we have got some good offensive players. We are going to keep grinding and turn that around.”

After suffering back-to-back losses, the No. 9 Sun Devils will look to get back in the win column Sunday against Villanova at 12:30pm.