Fresno State kept the pressure on the 10th-ranked Sun Devils on Friday. The Bulldogs erased an early three-run deficit, and Arizona State (11-4) nearly squandered a big opportunity in the eighth until Hunter Jump came to the plate.
Jump delivered the game-winning hit, a RBI-single, into center field to hand the Sun Devils an eventual 4-3 win over Fresno State (8-5). Jump, who spent last season at Central Arizona after playing his freshman year at ASU, felt experienced in the critical situation.
“I’ve been in situations like that before, it’s not my first time,” Jump said of the go-ahead at-bat. “Trying to keep it as simple as possible and move the ball. Just get the guy in and it’s what we do in practice every day. I go through every day with the guys and communicate just the little stuff that we work on already. What I do in practice is what I do in a game and not that big of a deal. Just try and keep everything as simple as possible and get the guy in and do what I can do.”
The Sun Devils started the eighth inning with two runners on base after back-to-back walk to Alika Williams and Spencer Torkelson.
After a wild pitch moved the runners over to second and third, Trevor Hauver struck out swinging and Drew Swift hit into a fielder’s choice to get Williams out. The Sun Devils saw a possible go-ahead run with no outs turn into two outs quickly. Then Jump came through with the game-winning hit.
Arizona State started the game off strong with two runs coming across home plate in the first inning. Juniors Trevor Hauver and Drew Swift drove in the runs.
Freshman Cooper Benson started on the bump for the Sun Devils and he didn’t disappoint. In 5.2 innings of work, Benson struck out nine Bulldogs on 93 pitches. He gave up two earned runs that would put the Bulldogs back in the game.
Benson talked postgame about what was and wasn’t working for him in his outing.
“The changeup wasn’t there,” Benson said. “After that (the first inning) I got my confidence up and started throwing strikes and I thought my fastball and my breaking ball was the best that it’s been this season. I just kept going with that and just going to get better and better.”
Benson would leave the game with a 3-2 lead but would earn a no decision after a seventh inning run crossed the plate for Fresno State.
In the bottom of the seventh, things seemed to turn for the worst as the Sun Devil bats continued to go quiet after the hot start.
Junior third baseman Gage Workman was picked off at first base to end the bottom half of the inning and instantly first base coach David Greer argued the call.
In a matter of seconds, Greer was tossed from the game for arguing the call and head coach Tracy Smith came out to argue the ruling and he was tossed quickly. The first base umpire seemed to have no time for arguments as he walked away with his hands behind his back on the first base line.
Smith and Greer had to watch the rest of the game from Smith’s office and hope for the team to deliver in their absences.
“I thought he certainly looked safe,” Smith said. “There’s two things on that: one he beat it and (two) I’m pretty sure there is a rule that says you aren’t allowed to be in front of the base without possession of the baseball.”
The players agreed that the call happens, and they had to stay ready.
“I kind of felt some more energy too,” Williams said. “Skip got tossed and it fired us all up too.”
“If anything, it just really gets us going more,” Jump said. “I think it puts a fire under us and if things aren’t going our way, we just have to really step it up now.”
R.J. Dabovich came in to save the game for the Sun Devils and record his fourth save of the season. It wasn’t easy though as a throwing error by Williams saw the leadoff man become possible tying run.
“Whatever happens behind that (error), I trust these guys,” Dabovich said. “We have one of the best defenses in the country. I know that if I got him the ball, he was going to make the play. Errors behind me or if I walk someone or if I give up a hit or a home run, it doesn’t really affect me. The most important pitch is the next pitch. Which is why was happened I was able to come back.”
After having runners on first and second with one out, Dabovich struck out the next two batters and put the hopes of a Bulldogs comeback to bed.
ASU looks to take the second game of the three-game series on Saturday with sophomore right hander Tyler Thornton (2-0, 2.41 ERA) on the mound. Fresno State will put junior right hander Jamison Hill (1-0, 3.00 ERA) on the mound to get a win.