While it took due time, the Arizona State (4-3) bats found life again on Saturday night as they downed Boston College (3-3) 8-4 to win their second weekend series in as many tries.
For the first five innings, it mirrored the story of ASU’s first five games of the season. 1-0 the score, a solo bomb from Spencer Torkelson, and dominant starting pitching with Tyler Thornton allowing just two hits.
But when the Eagles scored two in the sixth, taking a one run lead, the Sun Devil bats would be called upon to spark a rally, much like they did in most of Friday’s 10-4 victory.
So, the question loomed: has the maroon and gold offense really taken a turn for the better?
The answer appears to be yes.
With eight of the nine starters producing hits in the win, Torkelson is starting to watch the shields go up around his slot in the lineup with other hitters giving him the needed protection.
“Simplifying things, changing our approach to middle-middle line drives,” said Torkelson on reason for the improved offense. “The extra-base hits will come.”
Their four-run sixth inning is what did the bulk of the damage. Hunter Jump drilled a solo shot to right-center field to start it off and knot the game up at two and reenergized the crowd, but there was a fair amount of small ball sprinkled in throughout the frame as well.
“We’re not the same as we were last year, we’re still a good offensive team,” coach Tracy Smith said. “You look at your personnel and make your adjustments and you coach to your personnel.”
What was significant was what happened after Torkelson came up five batters later and was, again, intentionally walked, making it seven times in as many contests.
“We were a little surprised with that. The matchup, the spin, we thought it was a better matchup with Hauver anyway,” Smith said.
Trevor Hauver had come up short on a couple of previous clutch-hit opportunities in the first four games after Torkelson was put on base. This time, he delivered.
“Still had the same approach of trying to drive some runs in,” said Hauver.
After a wild pitch that scored Drew Swift, Hauver laced a two-RBI single to center field, giving the Devils a three-run cushion. They would later tack on another pair in the seventh.
“I thought (Hauver) had one of the biggest hits, he and Jump, of the game,” Smith said.
“I was just doing everything I could to create a passed ball, create some situation where we could score,” Swift added. “(Assistant coach Ben Greenspan) told me ‘hey he’s way off, get as much as you can and expect it’ so I was expecting it.”
This marks 18 runs in the last two games for the Arizona State offense, showing signs of putting their first handful of games in the rearview mirror. Hauver, with his nine walks, has now pushed his OPS up to .829.
“I think the first couple games I was pressing a little bit, trying to do too much,” Hauver said. “I stayed with the approach. I felt a lot more comfortable.”
Things are not perfect yet. Alika Williams and Gage Workman are still looking to find their consistent stride, in spite of long balls from both of them on Friday, hitting under the Mendoza line. Hauver heating up gives pitchers a reason to not avoid Torkelson, but the two additional Preseason Golden Spikes Watch List candidates catching fire could very well put the team that was ranked Preseason No. 3 into full fruition. Having said that, one can certainly tell the offense is certainly trending in the right direction.
Thornton finished his night after spinning six innings, allowing two earned runs on six hits with five strikeouts. Closer RJ Dabovich finished the job with a six out save after Cam Dennie and Graham Osman came on in relief.
“I was just trying to stay in the zone, pounding fastballs, and it worked out pretty well today,” Thornton said.
The Devils will face off with the Eagles one final time on Sunday afternoon in search of a sweep, with Justin Fall expected to take the mound. First pitch is set for 12:30 p.m.