With an offensive barrage, No. 8 Arizona State (7-3) cruised past Nebraska (1-6) 13-5 on Friday night at Phoenix Muni.
Led by a career-high four hits from junior infielder Drew Swift, the Devils’ bats came alive and opened things up quickly.
Oddly enough, Swift actually had a batting practice that he wasn’t too pleased with just prior to Friday’s matchup. He quickly vanquished those reps, however, with his big night.
“In BP, I wasn’t swinging it too well but I got some hacks in right before the game and made some adjustments,” Swift said. “In game, I just felt like everything really slowed down and I saw the ball really well.”
Swift’s performance aided in the victory, but in the fourth inning is when ASU really opened the flood gates. The Sun Devils dropped an eight-spot and continued to pass the bat.
They were also aided by a Nebraska pitching staff that presented the team with free gifts, issuing five walks and three hit batters in the frame.
The biggest dents came off the bats of juniors Gage Workman and Hunter Jump. Workman roped a ball down the right field line, then Jump followed suit for back-to-back extra base hits.
It was a welcomed sight for a Sun Devil squad that seems to be finding their rhythm offensively.
“I thought we did great as a team and we came out really strong with the bats,” said Jump, who was 2-4 with two RBI’s. “I think we attacked early and put some runs on the board and we were way more aggressive than we have been in the last few games.”
Prior to the big fourth, ASU also got the scoring started with three runs in the second inning, as outfielder Seth Nager singled through the left side, giving him his first RBI of the season.
“He earned that right to get out there tonight and it was good to see him have some success,” said coach Tracy Smith of Nager’s base hit to break open the scoring. “When you do that, you stack it on top of each other and you earn more opportunities.”
On the mound, freshman lefty Cooper Benson delivered six innings of one-run baseball, striking out six while only walking one.
He might have had some extra gas left in the tank, too at just 87 pitches, but with a large lead there was no reason to extend Benson deep into Friday’s contest.
He competed well, and bounced back after a tough outing last Friday against Boston College.
“I just had more confidence tonight,” said Benson of his bounce back performance. “Last week, I just didn’t have it warming up and throwing in the bullpen. It happens to everyone and this week, I felt better and more confident when I was out there and I just felt way better today.”
Among notable arms out of the pen and in relief, freshman Seth Tomczak also came on to make his collegiate debut. He retired the side and earned his first strikeout in the process.
Ultimately, ASU controlled things from start to finish, and they were also aided by 15 free passes that were handed out by the Cornhuskers. There were five Sun Devils plunked by pitches, and 10 walks.
In his postgame comments, Smith eluded to the fact that ASU still hasn’t seen the best version of Nebraska’s pitching staff, and although the team from Lincoln has just one win this season, there’s no reason for them to be overlooked.
Nebraska had a lot of self-inflicted wounds on the mound that led to the Sun Devils getting runs, and the team won’t expect to be given hand outs like that all weekend.
After all, the group was in this position last year in Lincoln when ASU dropped 15 runs in the first game of a three-game set, only to drop the ensuing two contests over the next couple of days. Swift and company are looking to avenge that feeling.
“It doesn’t do much because we did the same thing to them last year on Friday and they came back and beat us,” Swift said. “We have to do the same thing and strap it on tomorrow, and come out and play our best baseball.”