It was a night of debuts at Phoenix Municipal Stadium on Friday night as Arizona State (1-0) hosted Dixie State (0-1) to open its 2022 campaign.
First-year head coach Willie Bloomquist recorded his first career win after the 3-1 Sun Devil victory. Over 3,000 fans were on hand to witness the start of the newest era of ASU baseball.
“I know there’s going to be a lot of emotions on this side of the coin,” Bloomquist said of being a coach versus a player. “But it’s certainly exciting.”
While the team is a fair mix of transfers and returners, both played a crucial role in starting the season off right.
“Super Duper Senior” Dinger
Conor Davis is in his sixth year of college. Davis transferred to ASU from Auburn after playing four seasons for the Tigers.
A season-ending knee injury kept him off the field in 2021, but he obtained a medical waiver to play this year. His return to the diamond in 2022 could not have been better.
Neither team scored until the bottom half of the second inning, when Davis stepped up to the plate for the first time in nearly two years.
Sit back and enjoy the beauty of this moment.— Sun Devil Baseball (@ASU_Baseball) February 19, 2022
Don't care who you are or who you root for, this is special.@ConorDavis13 makes his triumphant return to the diamond with this dinger. pic.twitter.com/8JrqYnIF0J
“I feel so blessed to be back out here,” Davis said. “It’s been so much about getting my knee right the last couple of months and now it’s all about us.”
Listed on the roster as a redshirt-senior, Davis ended his first game back with a 2-4 night and the team-lead in home runs.
“I’m really proud of him in how he’s carried himself and how he’s battled this whole thing,” Bloomquist said. “To see him go out and connect with one was a pretty special moment.”
Former Mountaineer dominates on the mound
West Virginia transfer Adam Tulloch was one of nine incoming pitchers for the Sun Devils this year from the portal. He got the call as the opening night starter and did not disappoint.
Tulloch works in the business of strikeouts. He ranked third in the Cape Cod league this past summer in K’s. On Friday night, he set down seven Trailblazers in just 4.1 innings of work.
His fastball hit 95 and his off-speed was down in the lower 80s. He kept Dixie State off balance, guessing and without a single hit.
“I noticed that (the hitters) were trying to mess with my timing,” Tulloch said about his adjustments. “I just stayed focused and stayed locked in. I think that If I can continue do that the rest of the season, I can stay attacking (hitters).”
The one downfall of setting down batters on strikes is the higher pitch count associated with it. The southpaw’s night ended early, but he was 73 pitches into the game.
Bullpen takes care of business
The Sun Devils threw three more arms after Tulloch’s departure. All of them were returners from last year’s squad.
Christian Bodlovich was dominant during his 2.2 innings. He trusted his defense, to plays behind him. The main differences from last year’s infield were Hunter Hass moving from third to shortstop and Ethan Long taking over in the hot corner. It was a clean night for them.
Brock Peery had a rough start to the year, with a walk, hit batter and wild pitch. He did, however, have the House of Sparky Heads-Up Play of the Night with a fielded groundball-turned-rundown, catching the lead runner that was in scoring position.
Will Levine closed the game out with a surge of energy. He worked out of a tough situation in the eighth after Peery was pulled mid-batter. When the team went into the dugout, someone could be heard yelling, “you like that? You like that?” (Like Kirk Cousins).
“Everyone who knows me, knows me as an even-keel guy,” Levine said. “For whatever reason when I get between the lines, it’s competition. It’s what makes the game fun.”
The Sun Devil offense got out to a 2-0 lead in the second inning and added an insurance run in the fifth, but there were plenty of other opportunities for them to manufacture runs.
At times, ASU would play small ball and move runners into scoring position with a bunt or fly ball. By the end of the night, Arizona State was 0-14 with runners in scoring position and 2-16 with runners on base.
“We are certainly going to have to make adjustments,” Bloomquist said. “But I’m confident (in our guys) that we will be able to do that.”
They are not going to get away with winning a lot of games if that continues to be a trend, but it is only the first game of the year (so all the jitters should be out by now).
Saturday night, the Sun Devils will look to stay undefeated as they take on the Trailblazers again. This time it will be a 6 p.m. local time start.