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ASU Baseball: Sun Devils Win on Misty Night With Stellar Pitching

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Amidst the Mist

Richard Martinez, House of Sparky

After a weekend of offensive fireworks for both Arizona State and Nevada, trends indicated Tuesday night’s matchup would be another procession around the base paths and a high octane offensive affair at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.

Instead, both pitching staffs turned in stellar performances on a night where the bullpen door swung open repeatedly, and mother nature dampened the offensive fireworks with light rain and cool temperatures.

Arizona State won their only game this season with Nevada 3-1. Three days after the Wolfpack scored 20 runs against Grand Canyon and two days after the Sun Devils plated 17 runs and hammered two grand slams against Dixie State, a combined four runs crossed for either side.

“I was expecting a little different score than there was tonight,” said Arizona State head coach Willie Bloomquist. “Watching film on those guys, they can really swing the sticks. But both pitching staffs threw the ball pretty well and kept guys off balance.”

This game may have lived up to its billing if not for Tyler Meyer’s impervious demeanor on the mound in the first two innings. Toeing the rubber as a starter for the first time in his still brief Sun Devil career, Meyer pitched from the stretch as the Wolfpack brought their best hitters to the plate.

Meyer calmly stranded two runners in the first with back-to-back strikeouts. In the second, he stranded two more after the Wolfpack had runners at second and third with one out. In a tone-setting duel between a pitcher who was dealing and a batter who entered the game red hot, Meyer sat down Wolfpack second baseman and reigning Mountain West Conference Player of the Week Josh Zamora with a strikeout with two runners on in the first.

“I wanted to go right after him,” Meyer said of Zamora, who entered the game with an above .600 batting average. “I was able to attack him and put him away on the off-speed stuff.”

From the third inning until his exit, no visiting batter facing Meyer would get any further than first base as he surgically worked through the Wolfpack lineup. He pitched five innings, allowed zero runs and struck out six batters to set the table for the rest of the Sun Devil pitching staff.

After their astronomical offensive numbers on Sunday, a gravitational pull toward normal scoring numbers was expected for the Sun Devil lineup. Despite a second inning RBI double from catcher Nate Baez to open the scoring, the Sun Devil offense failed to launch for much of the night.

“We’re doing a good job setting the table but we’re just kind missing that big hit, the big moment, the big knockout punch,” Bloomquist said. “Sometimes it’s not even a knockout punch it’s putting the ball in play, getting a run across and doing some little things right.”

“We need to get better. They understand that. We have a very talented lineup and there are times that call for execution, and we got to do a better job at that.”

If the game was devoid of a knockout punch for the Sun Devil bats, they were fine to slowly jab their opponents to submission. In the sixth inning, the Sun Devils pushed across their third run and final run of the game through a remarkable series of walks and one hit batter.

One of the team’s most patient hitters, second baseman Sean McLain put his discipline on display again by drawing the RBI walk in a full count with two outs to “drive in” freshman designated hitter Jacob Tobias.

It was an answer to the Wolfpack, who plated their only run of the game in the top of the sixth on a Zamora single that drove in center fielder Dario Gomez. The Wolfpack threatened to rally with a single and a walk to load the bases, but Bloomquist was quick to remove Josh Hansell, who had replaced Meyer and clearly didn’t have his best stuff, and replaced him with the sturdy right arm of Christian Bodlovich.

Bodlovich retired the next two batters to escape the jam with what was then a 2-1 lead unscathed. All the while, he pitched through a combination of rain and mist that sent spectators scurrying for an overhang but did little to deter the play on the field.

“Bod did what Bod does, coming in and getting us out of a jam,” Bloomquist said. “I was very happy with the whole pitching staff and their performance.

“It’s definitely a factor, but at the end of the day, it’s just another obstacle,” Bodlovich said of the rainfall, which began shortly before he took the mound. “The goal is always attack every hitter, no matter how many pitches it takes.”

Following Bodlovich would be Chase Webster, who threw hard in his incredible three inning save to shut down any chance at a Nevada comeback. Webster would allow one hit and strike out four batters as his fastball reached the mid 90s.

“Can’t say enough about Webby,” Bloomquist added. “What he did coming in at the end of the game there, it was the best I’ve seen him throw the ball.”

There was not much space for redemptive offensive performances in a game where the Sun Devils mustered only six hits. And yet there was Hunter Haas and Ethan Long, two of the Sun Devils core contributors in 2021, who had both been off to slow starts this February, recording multi-hit nights.

In the fifth inning, Haas led off the inning with an infield hit and advanced to third on a fielder’s choice. With one out, Long, his teammate and new partner on the left side of the infield drove him in with a towering sacrifice fly to left field to make the score 2-0.

Two more loud hits would follow. Long laced a single up the middle in the seventh. Haas followed in the eight with a blast into the gap in left-center field for a standup double.

Neither hit resulted in a run, but the impact of both players seemingly finding their groove at the plate is nearly unquantifiable for the Sun Devil offense, especially in Long’s case.

He entered the season as a freshman last year looking to make some noise. His bat rang loud enough to earn him a nod as an All-American. This season, through three games, Long was far from his 2021 form. Tuesday night was different. Even after a strikeout in his first at bat, Long appeared to be closer to his old self, and proved it in the later innings.

“He is definitely a spark plug,” Bodlovich said of his fellow sophomore Long. “Just having a guy that would do anything to win is definitely someone that you don’t often take for granted. The energy he brings is huge for the dugout.”

Arizona State has their weekend series begin Thursday in this convoluted and compressed early schedule. BYU will travel to Phoenix Municipal Stadium for the rematch of last year’s 8-5 Cougar victory in Provo, Utah.

First pitch will be 6:30 p.m. MST.