Tracy Smith penciled in Kai Murphy as his Sunday starter on the mound. The redshirt-freshman had only thrown 1.2 innings this season, but clearly had Smith’s trust as the skipper allowed Murphy to hit for himself and not use a designated hitter in the lineup.
Murphy made Smith look like a genius, delivering a specular outing in Arizona State’s (27-15, 12-9 Pac-12) 7-2 series-clinching win over Cal (24-21, 10-11).
The left-handed hurler threw seven scoreless innings, allowing only two baserunners the entire game. He finished his day retiring 13 straight Cal batters and setting his team up for its third straight series win.
Right fielder Dylan Beavers had the lone hit against Murphy, a two-out triple in the third inning. Murphy responded by stranding him at third base after inducing Quentin Selma into a fly out.
Murphy also benefited from early run support. In the second inning, the bottom of the lineup started a two-out rally.
Nate Baez hit his first home run of the season from the eight spot in the order. Then Joe Lampe and Drew Swift reached base, and Lampe scored on a Hunter Jump single.
Two more runs came in during the fourth inning, started by Baez and Lampe getting on base to lead off the frame. Sean McLain got an at-bat with the bases loaded. He hit a double to bring in Baez and Lampe.
Swift hit a two-run blast in the eighth inning, scoring Baez for the third time. The Sun Devils added another run on a wild pitch in the ninth.
Will Levine pitched the eighth and ninth innings for Arizona State. Cal scored a run in each inning, but Levine was able to roll a pair of double plays to help limit the damage.
The Sun Devils will continue their road trip with a game at Nevada on Tuesday (12:00 p.m.) before returning home for a weekend series against Oregon State.