No. 8 Arizona State (2-3) couldn’t find the timely hit on Tuesday night against No. 24 Oklahoma State (2-2), as the Sun Devils dropped their third game of the season at Phoenix Muni by a final of 2-1 against the Cowboys.
Throughout the first five contests, it’s been a theme: Get stellar pitching from the staff, but the offense has fallen a little short.
“Baseball is a funny game,” said head coach Tracy Smith. “You go through things like this and it just takes that one hit one time to get everybody going. We just got to keep on grinding it out and stay in there and stay focused and not try to do too much.”
At various points, ASU had opportunities to break open the dam on Tuesday. They had the bases loaded in both the second and ninth innings, and the Sun Devils also had runners on first and third with one out in the seventh, yet each time they came up short.
With runners on first and third and two outs, junior phenom Spencer Torkelson was due up to try and do some damage. However, as he has been getting treated all season, Torkelson was an intentional walk to bring up junior outfielder Trevor Hauver.
Hauver popped up to shallow left field to put a wrap on what had to be a frustrating night at the dish for ASU.
“I just said it to Trevor at the end, there’s nobody in the world I’d rather have up at the plate at the end of that baseball game than him,” said Smith of the last at-bat. “It just didn’t happen tonight.”
The only ASU run of the game was generated by the heart of the order when junior shortstop Alika Williams had a sacrifice fly to plate Torkelson.
As frustrating as the offense seems to be as of late, the players were certainly trying to keep an even-keel mindset.
“We went in yesterday for a few hours and we all did stuff to help out our swing, but it’s going to come,” said junior second baseman Drew Swift, who had two hits on Tuesday. “We don’t need to press and we are going to be alright.”
Due to the offensive woes to start the year, yet another quality outing on the mound was squandered, too.
Tuesday’s Sun Devil defeat came with a bit of history, too, as the pitching staff recorded 18 strikeouts for the first time since 1998.
12 of those came from sophomore lefty Erik Tolman, who went six innings and allowed two runs while throwing 118 pitches.
Since coming back from winter break, Tolman has been preparing himself to go deeper into ballgames and be ready in any situation. He noted how his hiatus and plan over the winter has helped him.
“They told me to throw more bullpens and to be more ready when I come back,” said Tolman of his work load through the winter. “Throwing that many out there today, I was expecting it.”
Backing up Tolman was the relief combo of freshman Cam Dennie and junior RJ Dabovich. In a bases loaded situation and one out, Dennie came on to strike out back-to-back batters and get out of the jam.
Additionally, Dabovich pitched 1.1 innings of scoreless baseball. with three strikeouts. He has been listed as the team’s closer, but even in a role where he wasn’t in for a save situation, he still came on to give his team a chance to earn a win.
“I am always ready to go. I got a day and a half rest and I felt good,” Dabovich said. “I am always ready to go toward the end of the game and if it’s close, I definitely feel like I belong in the game and I can do my best to get the team a win.”
Similar to efforts against Michigan and Villanova, the offense just wasn’t there when the team needed a clutch hit.
Despite outhitting Oklahoma State 7-6, the Cowboys got the job done courtesy of two RBI’s and a home run from senior outfielder Cade Cabbiness in addition to seven innings on the mound from sophomore starter Brett Standlee.
What was figured to be one of ASU’s biggest strengths with their offensive lineup has suddenly gone dormant, and with the struggles continuing, it has put the Sun Devils one game under .500 at the five-game mark after starting the year being ranked No. 3 in the nation.
It might still be too small of a sample size at this marker in the season, but if the Devils’ want to reach the goals they set for themselves, the bats will need to help shoulder some of the burden.
Players and coaches haven’t hit the panic button yet, though, regardless of the some of the inconsistency.
“We are five baseball games into it and there’s no panic in that locker room and there’s no panic on the coaching staff,” Smith said. “These are a bunch of guys that have done it before and maybe I’d have a little more panic if I hadn’t seen it out of these guys. These are some pretty good hitters that take pride in what they are doing, and they just haven’t found the big knock yet.”