In his past two outings coming into Sunday, lefthander Justin Fall had cruised through the opposing lineups once, following it up with shaky command and a lack of missed bats, leading to a couple of early departures.
In Sunday’s win over Fresno State (8-7), Fall worked through some of those issues, helping the Arizona State (13-4) come out with an 8-3 win, earning their second weekend sweep of the season.
A lot of Fall’s mishaps the last two weeks have generated in the third inning. In fact, they’ve consisted of seven runs on six hits between Boston College and Nebraska.
Against the Bulldogs on Sunday, collapse looked plausible again. While it was not the same hard contact off the bat as the previous two weeks, Fresno State pushed across two runs on three hits, taking a one run lead.
“That third inning has kind of been his deal the last couple of outings, we wanted to get through that,” pitching coach Jason Kelly said.
He ultimately did. After minimizing further damage in the third frame, things started to change for the New Jersey native moving forward.
“Just more of the mental battle,” Fall said on what changed for him after the third. “I felt like I was myself out there today so it felt good.”
He retired eight straight bats between the third, fourth and fifth frames, finding his crisp command and mixing in some quality out-pitches too, racking up four of his six punchouts in that time.
This looked more like the Justin Fall that was on display during opening night against Villanova. Sure, there were a couple two-out walks surrendered in that outing, similar to the two free passes he allowed Sunday with a pair sat down. With the movement Fall has on his pitches, particularly the two-seam fastball, sometimes things are bound to get away from him a little bit.
“The best in the world make mistakes, they just recover quicker” Kelly said. “That’s part of what we do on a weekly basis is making sure we’re making those adjustments as quick as we possibly can.”
However, the swing-and-miss offerings were in full force over Fall’s six innings of work. With a Fresno State offense that came into the weekend ranked fifth in the nation in home runs, the southpaw made them look silly a handful of times.
“The more strikes you throw, the more pitches they’re going to swing at, so they started to chase a little bit because he started to pound the zone,” Kelly said.
Fall possesses such a heavy fastball. Assistant head coach Ben Greenspan described earlier in the weekend that the analytics show that Fall often makes hitters swing and miss by a country mile with his heater. This goes along with a couple of deadly off-speed pitches as well. When he commands the zone, he’s as lethal as any of the five starters.
“I think I’m just pitching the way I’m capable of,” Fall said. “I’m glad I struggled the last two times because to be honest with you, I learned a lot and I took a lot from that, and I think it paid off today.”
The offense did their part today as well, highlighted by Gage Workman’s two home runs, one from each side of the plate. It was the first time in his baseball career he’d ever done that.
Six of the nine Sun Devil starters produced multi-hit games, including Trevor Hauver with two doubles in a three-hit performance, now stretching his hit streak to 14 games.
“It’s just a good lineup all the way up and down and it’s just about whose going to get it done that day,” Workman said.
The Devils welcome in the Arizona Wildcats on Tuesday night in their only trip to Phoenix of the year. The two most powerful offensive teams in the conference will face off at 6:30 p.m. at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.