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ASU Baseball: Sun Devils hang onto one-run win over Sacramento State

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Not a lot of runs again

Richard Martinez/House of Sparky

Another night, another pitching duel. But this time, it was Arizona State (1-1) coming away with the low-scoring 2-1 victory over the Sacramento State Hornets (1-1) Saturday night at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.

Sophomore pitcher Tyler Thornton got the ball to start for the Sun Devils and pitched a gem. While he allowed a few baserunners in the opening two innings, each time he pitched himself out of the jam with a reliance on his strikeout pitches.

For the second straight night, a strong performance from a Sun Devil pitcher received very little offensive support through five innings. The Hornets’ are known for their pitching staff, and through two games, they have shown up, allowing a total of only four Sun Devils runs.

“We knew coming into the weekend we were going to see Pac-12 caliber starting pitching from them,” ASU head coach Tracy Smith said postgame. “We know that we have to come out and play our best baseball to beat them.”

The game remained scoreless into the top of the fourth, when Hornets’ catcher Dylan McPhillips connected on a two-strike pitch and sent a fly ball over the center field fence to open the scoring.

On most nights, that ball likely stays in the yard, but on this night, with winds vigorously gusting toward straightaway center, the ball appeared to ride the jet stream on its trip out of the yard.

An inning and a half later, the ASU bats came alive. First, Kai Murphy, who made a spectacular defensive play in the first inning, ripped a line drive over the right field wall to even the score at one.

Joe Lampe, the junior college transfer from Petaluma, Calif. was the offensive star Saturday night for ASU. After the Murphy home run, Lampe knocked a ground ball base hit through the middle of the infield and into center field.

It was a routine single, until it wasn’t. Lampe raced around first and tested Hornets’ center fielder Trevor Doyle, who, caught off guard by Lampe’s aggressive baserunning, did not get the throw in on time.

“It was picture-perfect,” Lampe said. “I came here to get on base for guys like (Drew) Swift and Hunter Jump and be able to score from first, second, or third on any ball.”

Swift in the next at-bat sent an Adams’ pitch into left field for a base hit, scoring Lampe, and giving the Sun Devils the lead. As it turns out, Swift’s third RBI of the series was the winning hit Saturday.

ASU continued to be nearly perfect on the mound this weekend, except for two swings of the bat from the Hornets. Thornton left the mound with two outs in the sixth inning with a line of six hits, one earned run, and six strikeouts to no walks.

“I felt pretty good out there tonight,” Thornton said. “Every pitcher here has to feel good with the defense we have.”

Left-handed pitcher Justin Fall took over from there, and the Sun Devil pitching symphony didn’t miss a note.

Fall faced 10 batters over the next 2.1 innings. He struck out two and allowed three baserunners on a walk and two hits, and the team remained in the lead thanks to some highlight-reel defensive plays, including this web gem from Hunter Haas.

After Friday night’s blown save from Cam Dennie, Smith sent out freshman Ethan Long to close the game out. His first batter, Martin Vincelli-Simard, walked after a 12-pitch at bat. Now, the go-ahead run would be at the plate for the rest of the inning.

But there would be no come from behind victory from the Hornets on this night, as Long solicited two flyouts to end the game. In his first college career save opportunity, Long got the job done.

ASU and Sacramento State will finish their season-opening series Sunday afternoon at 12:35 MST.