The first three ASU batters of the night made it clear that the Sun Devils (13-5, 2-2 Pac-12) were happy to be back in the confines of Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
After a series loss at Oregon last weekend, Arizona State returned home Friday night in grand fashion, routing Washington State 10-0 (12-6, 1-3).
On the mound, freshman Brock Peery was dominant in his first career start.
Tracy Smith’s latest Friday night experiment, Peery, was masterful in his 6 ⅔ innings of work. His final line boasted just 70 pitches, with six hits allowed and five strikeouts.
When pitching coach Jason Kelly finally took the ball from Peery, he was greeted by a standing ovation from the 1,176 fans in attendance.
“Throwing a scoreless first inning and having the offense put up four runs was huge for me in my first start,” Peery said. “I was able to prepare over the last couple days, and felt good going in. I wasn’t expecting to go that deep, but things were going well. It was great to feel the energy from the crowd.”
Smith offered praise for his freshman hurler, who’s one of many to see an expanded role in the wake of a long list of injured pitchers.
“Just like last Friday, we gave someone else an opportunity,” Smith said. “I’m very proud of Brock tonight, that was big time.”
As Peery mentioned, the offense got started early.
Sophomore Joe Lampe got things going on the first pitch of the bottom of the first, shooting an opposite field double down the left field line. Just two pitches later, Drew Swift laced the first of his two hits, an RBI single up the middle.
Sean McClain, occupying the three hole for the first time in 2021, kept the Sun Devils’ foot on the gas with a double deep into the left-center field gap, scoring Swift from first.
The four-run barrage was capped off by a costly WSU error at first base, extending the inning and setting the tone for what was a long night for the Cougars.
“(Hitting) coach (Michael) Earley has done a great job getting us prepared all week,” McClain said. “I was a little surprised to see my name in the three spot, but it’s still a white ball. I’m just trying to hit it hard. Tonight it started with Lampe and the offense went from there.”
The offensive onslaught was not limited to the first inning. The Sun Devils continued to tag Washington State starter Brandon White, scoring in the second and third innings en route to a commanding 6-0 lead.
It was Swift and McClain again in the second, using a pair of singles and a Swift stolen base to extend the lead.
ASU broke the game open in the bottom half of the fifth with a flurry of singles and walks. Although only Kai Murphy’s leadoff single found the outfield grass, the Sun Devils managed to tally three hits and score two runs in the frame.
A Hunter Haas walk and Jack Moss infield single loaded the bases, and two RBI fielder’s choices from Lampe and senior Sam Ferri put the nail in the coffin.
“Our at-bats tonight showed me some growth. We tell the guys to not get caught up in the score, and just execute the plan,” Smith said. “They did that tonight. We hit the ball hard and they were falling, we got a lot of two out RBI’s. Last weekend we hit about a buck 76 with RISP, tonight we found the green when it mattered.”
Until the sixth, ASU’s bats had been held inside the park. Murphy made sure the big offensive night was punctuated by a long ball, launching his second homer of the year over the home bullpen in right.
“I was ready for first pitch fastball and I got it,” Murphy said. “I knew it was gone off the bat, but I thought I got one last week and I pimped it and it didn’t go out, so this time I had to make sure.”
Tattooed @kaijmurphy // #O2V pic.twitter.com/6KfylCXzWU— Sun Devil Baseball (@ASU_Baseball) March 27, 2021
Overall it was just a solid all-around performance.
“It was definitely one of our most complete performances of the year,” Smith said. “Our guys competed from first pitch to last pitch tonight.”
ASU now has two chances to win the series, with matinees scheduled for Saturday and Sunday at 2:05 p.m. and 12:30 p.m, respectively.
“Conference series’ are tough,” McClain said. “We dropped a couple last week at Oregon but now that’s in the rearview, and we have an opportunity to get a couple more wins this weekend.”