The past two weeks have shown us that this ASU Baseball team (20-21, 9-9 Pac-12) can pretty much hang with anybody. The bats remain consistent, they climbed back to .500 (momentarily) and they play with fire.
However, in a three-game series, this team is at a serious disadvantage.
The consistency issues showed in Sunday’s 14-4 rubber-match loss to Arizona (28-13, 13-8)
Boyd Vander Kooi received another Sunday start in his ongoing revamp process, and he was touched up for his worst performance of the season. BVK allowed five earned runs in three innings of work, earning the loss.
Arizona found success early with a Daniel Susac two-run homer. Sun Devil pitching had held Susac, one of the conference’s premier catchers, to a less-than-impressive 1-for-10 series performance before Sunday. He had two hits and three RBI.
After the Wildcats extended their lead to 6-0, the same Sun Devil squad that has flipped the switch late appeared again, this time with a three-run Nate Baez homer to halve the lead. Despite ASU creating another late-game buzz, it would be the only meaningful runs put up for the Devils.
Bye. Bye. Baez.— Sun Devil Baseball (@ASU_Baseball) April 24, 2022
Devils are in business. pic.twitter.com/U3Y3bbhVqZ
Arizona exploded for a seven-run seventh inning that all but decided the series in Tucson. Andrew Lucas, Blake Pivaroff and Ethan Long suffered the final seven runs.
Long was a late scratch from the starting lineup for Saturday’s game, but began warming up in the bullpen late in that match, without making an appearance. Absent again from the lineup on Sunday, Long made just his second pitching appearance of the year. Before the season, pitching coach Sam Peraza and head coach Willie Bloomquist expressed their desire to keep Long off the mound if possible, but depth issues in the bullpen have seemingly forced their hand.
Sophomore outfielder Michael Brueser tallied the Devils’ final run with an RBI single in the eighth to score Ryan Campos.
After UNLV comes to Phoenix Muni for Tuesday’s standalone game, ASU will head to LA for a pivotal conference matchup against UCLA. As it stands currently, ASU is in seventh place in the Pac-12 standings. UCLA (27-12, 11-7 Pac-12) is in third, but they are only two games ahead of the Devils. A series-win for either team should produce massive fluctuation in the standings.