The Arizona State bats were always going to be good heading into the 2020 season. Spencer Torkelson, Trevor Hauver, Alika Williams, Gage Workman and even Drew Swift’s rise, create one of the most potent lineups in college baseball. But the question coming in was who else was going to step up?
Thus far, it has been Hunter Jump into that role. He apparently didn’t get enough spotlight from his game-winning hit on Friday. The junior outfielder continued to star against Fresno State (8-6) on Saturday. Started by his two-run home run in the first, Jump finished with three hits and four RBIs to power Arizona State (12-4) to a 9-4 win.
Jump, moved into the cleanup spot due to Swift missing the contest due to illness, took advantage in the crucial spot of the lineup. After Sun Devil starter Tyler Thornton surrendered a solo shot to Fresno State catcher Zach Presno in the first, Jump hand delivered the lead right back to his pitcher.
Associate head coach Ben Greenspan, who filled in for head coach Tracy Smith because Smith has to serve a two-game suspension on top of his Friday night ejection, talked about Jump’s elite hand-eye coordination. Jump also credited the work he and hitting coach Michael Earley have put in together on his offensive game, especially the mental aspect.
“We’ve just been working on the little things...I think (our) bats are really starting to get together,” Jump said. “I’m starting to really help out the team right now. It’s just building confidence really.”
His two-out, RBI-single later broke a 4-4 tie in the sixth inning, and jump started the Sun Devils’ eventual five-run frame.
“He’s a good guy to have up in a big spot because he’s not scared and you know he’s going to move the baseball,” Greenspan said. “Back-to-back nights he’s come up later in the game with a chance to give us the lead and he’s done it both times...He’s a guy that wants to be in that spot and he really embraces the big spots.”
The highlight from the big inning came from Nate Baez, who started at second base for Swift. He displayed a power stroke — fair and foul — in the Sun Devils’ two-game mid-week series against Cal State Fullerton, but this time he sent one out for the Arizona State faithful. On the 2-1 pitch from the Bulldogs’ Kevin Larson, Baez swung his bat, gave it a flip and kissed it goodbye for a three-run home run to open up the contest.
“My approach is that I just want to hit the ball hard,” Baez said. “My at-bats prior to that, I was a bit late, in my head I’m thinking, ‘I just need to be on time with my top hand and just swing at a good pitch.’ That’s what I did.”
For Thornton, his night was never felt clean. He escaped a few jams but he allowed two runs in the fifth and the runners piled up in the sixth that led to his exit. Bryce Barnett allowed a single that scored the runner Thornton was responsible for, following the base hit, Barnett was lights out. The 6-foot righthander struck out seven in 3.2 scorelss innings
Barnett responded well from after allowing five runs in his appearance against Nebraska. He didn’t feel a difference between outings and he kept his mind on pounding the zone.
“Just throwing strikes and (Jump and Baez) putting up the runs, it gives us pitchers who come out of the bullpen confidence,” Barnett said. “Being able to pitch with the lead, it’s nice.”
Arizona State looks for the sweep on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. PT. Left-handed pitcher Justin Fall will get the start and look to bounce back from his rough outing versus Nebraska last Sunday.