Sun Devil baseball’s success in this up and down campaign has come largely on the backs of their talented freshmen class. Friday night provided another reminder that the fountain of youth has been kind to ASU when they have needed it most in 2021.
With runners on first and second in the bottom of the eighth inning as the Cardinal held onto a one-run lead, freshman Ethan Long roped a two-run double into deep right center.
That gave Arizona State (19-9, 8-5 Pac-12) a lead it did not give back in a dramatic 9-5 victory over No. 20 Stanford (20-7, 6-4) on Friday night at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
“Our freshmen are growing up, and they’re being forced to grow up really fast,” Arizona State coach Tracy Smith said. “Every game is a new notch in the experience belt, and they’re learning a lot and coming up for us when we need them.”
Long’s heroics were immediately followed by an RBI single from fellow freshman Hunter Haas. Long raced home, representing the insurance run, and was greeted by an elated tangle of bodies in the home dugout.
Haas would come around and score on a Joe Lampe sac-fly, and Drew Swift plated two more with a two-out single later in an inning that saw the Sun Devils bring 10 batters to the plate.
“We watched a lot of film on (Stanford reliever Zach Grech), so I went in there knowing he was going to try to challenge me with a fastball,” Long said. “He’s got a lot of sink on it so I wanted to focus on getting a barrel on it and getting the ball in the air. When our lineup gets rolling, it’s hard to stop us.”
Smith spun the Friday night starter wheel again when he put together tonight’s lineup, and this time it landed on freshman Graham Osman. Osman, whose only appearances this season have come out of the bullpen, looked good early.
He retired eight of the first nine batters he faced. With two outs and the bases empty in the third, the powerful Stanford bats made themselves heard when Tommy Troy belted a solo homer to dead center field to put the Cardinal up 1-0.
After a hit-by-pitch extended the inning, Christian Robinson launched a two-run shot deep into the Tempe night, clearing the bullpen in right and putting Stanford on top 3-0.
“Graham did his job tonight, even in giving up three runs,” Smith said. “He was an emergency starter tonight. We decided late that we wanted to give Thornton to get some rest and called on Graham late in the day.”
Stanford ace Brendan Beck was on cruise control himself until the home half of the third, when Lampe and Swift laced back-to-back singles with one out.
Hunter Jump followed with a two-run double into the right field corner. Swift slid home just ahead of the tag, and the nearly 2,000 ASU faithful on hand erupted.
The Sun Devils weren’t done yet, as a two-out infield single from Jack Moss allowed Jump to score the tying run. Moss had to leg it out, beating a throw that pulled Stanford first baseman Brett Barrera off the bag.
Stanford regained the lead in the fifth when a rare Sean McLain error allowed the Cardinal to push across a run.
One inning later, Barrera blasted a solo shot, giving Stanford what looked to be an air-tight two-run lead. With a chance to blow the game open, Christian Bodlovich was able to to escape the jam and keep the game within striking distance.
“That was a real momentum shift,” Smith said. “Bodlovich getting that hold was huge, and kind of summed up the night. Everyone contributed in this one, which makes it a really rewarding win as a coach.”
Bodlovich’s houdini act to escape the sixth sent a charge through the ASU dugout, giving a dormant offense a shot of confidence.
“We were fired up, and were able to put runs across in the next two innings,” Long said. “I knew we were going to win the game when he got out of that.”
ASU will look to win the series on Saturday, as Justin Fall will take take the mound in game two, which set for 6:30 p.m. at Phoenix Muni.