The NCAA Division I Baseball season is long and hard. From February until June, cleats are hitting the field and bats are filling the racks day in and day out as players and coaches around the nation aspire to dogpile on the mound of TD Ameritrade Stadium in Omaha as the champions of the College World Series.
In 2022, Arizona State baseball, one of the most storied programs in the sport’s history, was expected to be one of those teams who had a chance at seeing themselves among the final eight clubs alive in the storied tournament. But in a season where nearly everything went wrong at the last moment, the Sun Devils finished off their season in that same way with a crushing 8-6 loss at the hands of rival Arizona to eliminate them from the Pac-12 Tournament and the NCAA Tournament altogether.
Following a gritty win over Oregon to extend their season on Thursday, the Sun Devils came into their second straight elimination game looking to take the season series in the Territorial Cup and earn another shot at Stanford in the conference’s inaugural double-elimination tournament.
Early on, it looked like they might get that chance as before Arizona ace T.J. Nichols could even record an out, three-straight Sun Devils had reached safely with two coming around to score.
With a gassed-out pitching staff, the Arizona bats expectedly delivered blows to the Sun Devils early in response to the early 2-0 deficit. In the bottom of the third, Arizona put two runners on when catcher Daniel Susac tagged Adam Tulloch for a three-run blast over the right field fence.
That wouldn’t be it for the Wildcats in the inning though as just two pitches later, Tanner O’Tremba deposited another baseball over the right field wall to give Arizona a cushion, one they would pad later in the inning with a sacrifice fly after Tulloch had been pulled.
Arizona would hold this 5-2 advantage into the fifth before a Sun Devil answer would come when Sean McLain singled in Joe Lampe before coming around to score on a fielder’s choice and RBI single by Nate Baez to trim the deficit to one.
Christian Bodlovich would come up big for ASU on the mound in the middle innings and allow just two baserunners between the late third through the fifth innings to keep the game within reach.
Following Will Levine’s shutdown sixth, the Sun Devils broke through to reclaim the lead in the seventh with a two-run double off the bat of Ryan Campos to score two runs and give the Sun Devils a 6-5 lead, their first since the opening pitches of the game. After another shutdown frame in the seventh from Blake Pivaroff, it sure looked like Arizona State was going to get another crack at Stanford and keep their season going into Memorial Day Weekend.
Unfortunately for Willie Bloomquist, that school down south would get the last laugh on the Sun Devil lifer in 2022. Following back-to-back walks by Pivaroff to open the eighth, ASU’s regular closer in Brock Peery came on to try to extinguish the building Arizona rally just a mere 24 hours after he had shut down Oregon to record his tenth save of the year.
The sophomore right-hander could not get the job done this time around though as after recording two outs, Mac Bingham broke the game open with a bases-clearing triple off a misjudged flyball by Joe Lampe in center field to take an 8-6 lead at the death.
When Trevor Long would come on to finish off the game in the ninth, Arizona State’s 2022 campaign came to an end in the way that they dropped many crucial games all year with unreliable relief pitching and late game collapses.
For the season, Arizona State’s final record will go down as 26-31, with a conference mark of 13-17. This season surely isn’t the one that first-year skipper Willie Bloomquist expected, and the pressure will be on both him and the team to attend to its needs to elevate themselves back to the top of the school’s flagship athletic program.
However, the loss of Conor Davis in the order is going to be a big one, not to mention the possibility that premier offensive players in Ethan Long, Joe Lampe, and Sean McLain could all hear their names called in July’s MLB Draft.
Much of the pitching staff will return to Tempe as of now for 2023, whether that be a positive or negative will remain to be seen after a horrendous team performance on the mound this year. With the 33rd ranked recruiting class among the class of 2022 according to Perfect Game, reinforcements and team improvement should be in store for what Tempe and Bloomquist hopes will be a better 2023 season for ASU Baseball.