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ASU Baseball: Strong seventh propels Sun Devils past Cal State Fullerton

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Late-stage scoring

Photo courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics

For most of Saturday’s game, it looked like it was Cal State Fullerton’s (4-9) to lose. That was until Arizona State’s (10-2) offense woke up and scored four runs in the final two innings of its 6-4 win.

Arizona State has outscored its opponents 12-4 in the seventh inning. When they entered that frame on Saturday, the Sun Devils were down by two runs.

“All it takes is three good at-bats and you are back in the game” outfielder Kai Murphy said. “Every guy in the lineup, every at-bat means something to them.”

ASU started the inning with a double and two singles, including one off the bat of a pinch-hitting Blake Pivaroff. Pivaroff, now 5-5 coming off the bench, drove in the first of three runs.

A sacrifice fly from Joe Lampe and an RBI single to left by Hunter Haas followed and gave Arizona State its first lead of the game. The offense did not stop as Sean McLain provided some insurance with a solo shot in the eighth.

“Guys were trying to move runners situationally and they happened to go through,” head coach Tracy Smith said. “The execution was phenomenal…I really thought our guys did a good job of working the at-bats properly.”

Redshirt sophomore Tyler Thornton got the start on Saturday afternoon. He is the last man standing in the starting rotation after it was announced that Cooper Benson is out for the year with Tommy John surgery and Erik Tolman was ruled out this weekend due to arm soreness.

Thornton was cruising through three innings, but the fourth is where he struggled. The Titans had three-straight hits for extra bases, including back-to-back homers from Omar Veloz and Josh Urps.

With the Titans on the board 3-0, Kai Murphy decided it was time for ASU to get on the board. After Jack Moss worked a walk, Murphy homered to dead-center and cut the ASU deficit to one.

Austin Schell started the top of the sixth with a solo shot to left-center. That effectively ended Thornton’s night after five innings and 76 pitches. The righty also gave up six hits (including the three homers), four earned runs and struck out six.

“You ask a starter to give you five (innings) with the chance to win,” Smith said. “Honestly, I was pleased with his performance today.”

Cal State Fullerton’s starter, Kyle Luckham, settled in once he had the run support. Outside of the Murphy home run and the early struggles in the seventh, Luckham was solid. He threw six innings and gave up five runs on seven hits while striking out six.

Ethan Long entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the sixth and took over at first base. Smith said they planned to bring him in from to field to see how he reacted in a high-leverage situation.

“The first time I got to warm-up (before pitching) was my first start in college,” Long said, citing that he had been brought in from the field everywhere else he has played before coming to ASU.

After a multitude of defensive shifts in the top of the eighth, Long came in to pitch from first base and struck out the hitter with runners on second and third. He also pitched in the ninth and picked up his fourth save of the season.

“To be honest, I was excited,” Long said about pitching in the eighth. “I saw (freshman catcher) Logan Paustian in the dugout running with my pitcher’s glove and I was like ‘oh, here we go,’ so I was pretty pumped up.”

The bullpen combined for four innings, four hits, six strikeouts and no runs allowed.

Justin Fall will start on the mound tomorrow as the Sun Devils will look for their second-straight series sweep. They are set to face the Titans at 12:35 p.m. local time.