There wasn’t much more that Kyle Luckham, or even Willie Bloomquist could do.
To go to the ‘pen, or not go to the ‘pen.
In the bottom of the sixth, seemingly the breaking point in Wednesday’s first round Pac-12 Tournament game, this was...the question.
Head coach Willie Bloomquist decided to stick with Luckham while up by a run with no outs and two runners on. The junior right-hander had rolled through four frames before facing some middle-inning hiccups, but still had only just suffered his second run of the game. He was hovering around 90 pitches on the 100-degree afternoon when pitching coach Sam Peraza made a mound visit. They had to settle him down, but they were riding with Luckham.
A popout and a double-play later, eighth-seeded ASU had held a 3-2 lead into the seventh. The managing and execution were brilliant. Would it be enough?
Of course not.
The 6-3 loss to top-seeded Stanford puts ASU in the loser’s bracket of the inaugural Pac-12 Tournament, and the Sun Devils are now a loss away from their season ending.
Things looked hopeful early-on, as Luckham settled in nicely for four straight scoreless innings, and allowing just two baserunners during that span. Stanford gifted ASU its first run when Sean McLain reached on a two-out error that scored Will Rogers, who had singled earlier in the inning.
Stanford would knot things up at 1-1 in the bottom half.
Anything you can do...
Rogers broke the tie in the sixth, doubling to score a rumbling-and-tumbling Jacob Tobias from first on a close play at home. Rogers would then be plated on a Hunter Haas RBI single, and the Devils were back on top 3-1.
GET ON YOUR HORSE TOBY— Sun Devil Baseball (@ASU_Baseball) May 25, 2022
ROGERS. TOBIAS. THE FRESHMEN PUT ASU BACK ON TOP. pic.twitter.com/EU8DLS12C5
As previously mentioned, Bloomquist stuck with Luckham for the bottom half of the sixth, a decision that was criticized in the moment, but held a Sun Devil lead for a few more minutes.
GUT CHECK LUCKY.— Sun Devil Baseball (@ASU_Baseball) May 25, 2022
Stanford gets one back and has two on with no outs.
But Luckham gets a pop fly and a MASSIVE 6️⃣4️⃣3️⃣ GDP to keep ASU on top.
3-2, Devils, through 6️⃣
KAZG 1440 AM#ForksUp | #Pac12BSB pic.twitter.com/oSeqxIkAk7
Down 3-2 in the seventh, Stanford wasted no time attacking the Sun Devil bullpen. Bloomquist opted for the righty utility-man Blake Pivaroff for the set-up. After just six pitches from Pivaroff, Stanford had its first lead of the afternoon.
Stanford infielder Adam Crampton singled to start the inning, then Brock Jones delivered a no-doubter over the wall to put the Cardinal ahead 4-3.
...I can do better.
Another homer, a two-run shot from Drew Bowser, padded the Stanford lead to 6-3, one from which ASU could not recover.
The freshman phenoms provided almost all of the Sun Devil offensive output on Wednesday, largely centering around Rogers (2-for-4, 2 R, 2B, 1 RBI) and Ryan Campos (3-for-4, 1 BB). Jacob Tobias also went 2-for-5 with a double and a run.
The rest of the team went 3-for-22. In total, ASU left twelve runners on-base.
While Stanford now takes on Arizona Thursday afternoon, ASU will have the early (9 am MST) game against fourth-seeded Oregon Thursday morning. The winner will advance to Friday, and the loser will go home.