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ASU Baseball: Washington edges Devils in extras to avoid sweep

The bats go (mostly) quiet, wasting a gem from the bullpen

By Zach BonDurant, House of Sparky

After scoring a combined 17 runs over their first two games against the University of Washington, the Sun Devils’ bats went silent for most of Sunday’s series finale. Despite a late rally to send it into extras, ASU could not complete the comeback in an 11-inning 6-4 loss to the Huskies.

UW first baseman Will Simpson erased what had been a frustrating 1-for-5 day for the star Huskies slugger, working a 3-2 count off ASU closer Brock Peery to lead off the 11th before crushing the eighth pitch of the at-bat over the visiting bullpen in left field to give his team the lead for good. Washington added another run off Peery in the 11th thanks to a Cam Clayton RBI-single, and relievers Stefan Raeth and Adam Bloebaum worked around a one-out Ryan Campos single to slam the door on the Sun Devils.

For most of the game, it appeared that UW would not even need extras to avoid a sweep at Phoenix muni. Down 4-2 after seven innings, The Sun Devils manufactured a run in the eighth when Joe Lampe reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second and raced to third when the throw from UW catcher Johnny Tincher squirted into center field. Lampe then scored on a Sean McClain groundout.

After Jacob Tobias led off the ninth with a single, Campos stepped up with one out and crushed a double into right-center field, bringing home pinch-runner Andrew Lucas to tie the game.

It highlighted a three-hit day for the freshman catcher and outfielder, who also had two hits on Friday. His recent performance with the bat, in addition to his ability to play behind the plate and both corner outfield spots with starters Will Rogers and Kai Murphy all struggling offensively, have caught the attention of Campos’s coaches and will likely lead to more playing time.

“He’s starting to get confidence and believe that his swing plays and that he’s pretty dang good hitter,” Head coach Willie Bloomquist said. “You can just kind of see his confidence starting to evolve and build with every time he gets out there. So as long as he continues this, I would anticipate him being in the lineup more often than not.”

But ASU could not capitalize despite having the winning run on base in both the ninth and 10th innings. In the ninth, Murphy and Champagne struck out and grounded out, respectively, to force extra innings. After Ethan Long and Conor Davis whacked back-to-back two-out singles in the 10th, Lucas stepped up to the plate for the first time in the game and hit a pop-up behind home plate that Tincher snagged with a diving catch right in front of the seats.

Adam Tulloch, Bloomquist’s usual Friday starter, got the nod on Sunday instead after also starting in Tuesday’s loss against Grand Canyon. Tulloch, who could not get past the second inning in each of his last two outings, fared only slightly better in this one.

After Tulloch held the Huskies scoreless over the first three frames — thanks in part to some slick defense from Champagne at second base and Lampe in center field — Washington finally broke through in the top of the fourth when A.J. Gurrero crushed a home run straight to dead center for the game’s first run. Michael Snyder followed with a single, Clayton beat out a double-play ball, and Cole Miller ripped a double down the right-field line to put runners on second and third.

The wheels then really started coming off for Tulloch, as he balked home a run then allowed an RBI single to UW No. 9 hitter Josh Urps, forcing Bloomquist to pull his starter with the top of the order coming up.

“He just has to trust his stuff,” Bloomquist said. “I mean, his stuff is there... for him, it’s always mentally being on the attack and trusting that his stuff is good. And when he’s in that mindset, he’s pretty dang good. And when he’s not, then we have to battle and try to get him through as many innings as we can. We need the Adam Tulloch that we saw early [this season] where he was just an attack mode, not thinking about external stuff and attacking guys.”

Bloomquist and pitching coach Sam Peraza also revealed that the Sun Devils will keep the current rotation order of Kyle Luckham, Tyler Meyer and Tulloch through next weekend’s series against Cal and would reevaluate after then — meaning that Tulloch, who opened the year as ASU’s Friday starter and de facto ace, could be facing a demotion soon.

The silver lining for Bloomquist and Peraza on Sunday, however, was ASU’s bullpen. Following Tulloch’s exit, Sun Devil relievers Jared Glenn, Chase Webster, Christian Bodlovich and Will Levine combined to allow just one run and scattered eight hits over the next six innings, keeping ASU in the game — a welcome sign after the bullpen had struggled so much to begin the season. Bloomquist said afterwards that he believes his relievers are getting more comfortable in their roles.

“They’re doing their job, you know, they’re coming in and getting us out of jams,” Bloomquist said. “They’re shortening the game and doing what they’re supposed to do. So, you know, I’m pleased with how they’ve handled the past several weekends.”

However, after the Sun Devils’ bats had done plenty of damage in Friday’s and Saturday’s wins over Washington, they struggled to generate any offense for most of Sunday’s game. UW starter Case Matter held ASU’s lineup to just two runs on four hits in his five innings of work, and reliever Josh Emmanuels followed by allowing just one baserunner over the next two frames. Each of ASU’s early runs came via solo home runs from Long in the fourth and Lampe in sixth, their fourth and seventh homers of the year respectively.

Still, the offensive output was a far cry from what it had been over the previous two games.

“I felt we came out pretty flat today for the first half of the game,” Bloomquist said. “Good teams limit the amount of times they come out flat... You could kind of sense it early on that we just weren’t coming out with the intensity that we needed to.”

ASU has a quick turnaround before hitting the road for a game at UNLV on Tuesday, with Jacob Walker the probable starter. First pitch is scheduled for 5:05 p.m. Arizona time.