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ASU Baseball: Sun Devils outlast USC to win fifth straight series

Another one

Richard Martinez/ House of Sparky

For the last month and change, the Pac-12 standings have been about as crowded as can be. Stanford, Arizona State, Oregon State, UCLA and Cal were all within just two games of each other heading into the regular season’s penultimate Sunday.

In a series finale slugfest on Sunday at Dedeaux Field, Arizona State (32-17, 16-11 Pac-12) outlasted USC (23-25, 11-16) in a 10-6 game to win the series. It’s the Sun Devils’ fifth-straight series victory.

Kai Murphy got the starting nod on the bump for ASU. The two-way Oregon State transfer gave Arizona State coach Tracy Smith exactly what he needed. In five innings of work, Murphy allowed two runs while striking out four.

After surrendering a two-out, two-run blast in the first, his final four scoreless innings set the tone for the series-clinching victory on enemy turf. Smith handed it over to the ever-present bullpen to take ASU the rest of the way.

With the game knotted at two in the top of the fifth inning, Joe Lampe led off the frame by sharply lining a single to right field.

Smith’s decision to place Lampe in the “double leadoff” nine-hole paid off, as leadoff man Drew Swift plated the speedy Lampe easily with a triple to right center field.

Hunter Jump wasted no time extending the Sun Devil advantage, driving in Swift with a first pitch sac-fly. Although the bulk of the afternoon’s scoring was yet to come, ASU did not relinquish the lead Swift and Lampe provided in the sixth.

The top of the eighth inning saw ASU double its lead, adding two more runs to take a commanding 7-4 advantage. The drama began in the home half, however, as the Trojans roared back with three of their own.

Graham Osman, who had entered in the sixth inning to relieve Murphy, ran into trouble immediately in the eighth after cruising past the first six batters he faced in the previous two frames.

A pair of walks sent USC slugger Ben Ramirez to the plate, and the junior didn’t waste his opportunity. A majestic three-run blast on a full count, his second of the day, made it a one-run game and ended the day for Osman.

For an ASU team that has dealt with its fair share of bullpen issues, the heat was on in the late innings once again.

Will Levine relieved Osman. Levine recorded an out, but allowed two Trojans to reach by way of a single and a walk. Brady Corrigan, the most reliable arm in the pen all year, came in and shut the door, inducing the common 1-4-6-3 double play to end the inning.

Corrigan left the mound with a grin, one that would grow wider in the top of the ninth when ASU added three runs to its lead, ensuring the last half of the ninth would feature no drama.

Just three games remain in the regular season, as a home series against UCLA sits between ASU and what should be a nail-biter of a selection show. With the way they’ve played over the last month, the Sun Devils are shaping up to be a less than desirable opponent in June.