PHOENIX - Arizona State (3-0) pitched and defended its way to a nail-biting 1-0 victory and series-sweep over San Diego State (0-3) on Sunday, the first shutout ASU’s pitching staff has posted since March of 2021.
Offense was at a premium on Sunday for both teams thanks to a pitchers-duel between ASU’s LHP Florida-transfer Timmy Manning and SDSU’s RHP Jonny Guzman. Neither pitcher had given up a hit before Ethan Long (1-for-3, HBP) poked a single through the left side, Long’s first hit of the year after starting 0-for-6.
A lonely run
The only run of the game came in the bottom of the seventh inning when Jonny Weaver (1-for-3, RBI) laced a line drive into left field to score Luke Hill (2-for-3, 2B, 1R), who’d doubled with two outs to start the rally.
“Bloomy told me on Friday to stay ready, which I pride myself on doing,” Weaver said. I just try to be a great teammate, knowing that anything can happen at any time.
“We have so many guys with depth. We all love each other, we’re all pulling for each other. It’s really something special that we have interchangeable parts like that.”
Those two hits ended up defining the outcome, but it was Manning, the rest of the pitching staff and the defense that wrote the story of this game.
“We didn’t exactly beat the breaks off of it offensively today– it was pretty abysmal,” head coach Willie Bloomquist said. “At the end of the day, we didn’t beat ourselves on the mound or defensively. If you don’t give up bases, you give yourself an opportunity to win games.”
Manning took his bid for a no-no into the sixth inning before giving up a double to SDSU’s Caden Miller. In the sixth, Manning had to tightrope-walk during a jam with with runners on first and second and only one out.
Like he’d done all day, Manning deferred to his curveball as the put-away pitch, striking out his final batter, and giving way to Christian Bodlovich to finish the inning.
Manning, who left the field to a standing ovation from the Sun Devils faithful, finished his debut with 5.2 IP, 2 H, 1 BB and 6 K on 81 pitches-- not a bad first impression. The combination of Bodlovich and junior righty Jonah Giblin got ASU through the next three outs.
That was until Giblin found himself in a dicey spot with a runner on third and one out. Giblin struck out the next hitter, and Bloomquist then turned to his new fireball closer, Jesse Wainscott.
“As a closer, I’ve kind of reveled in that role– I really enjoy it. At that moment, you just say ‘one pitch at a time,” Wainscott said. “Just go one pitch at a time, and just do your best every pitch.”
Wainscott got out of the inning with back-to-back strikeouts with a combination of his fastball and nasty slider. Those pitches would get Wainscott all the way to the finish line, coming away with the win in 2.1 innings of work, striking out 6-of-7 batters faced.
“When it’s a one-run ball game, the game seems much larger. College baseball is momentum. If you just play into the momentum and keep it going, everything rides out well,” Wainscott said.
On a beautiful day for college baseball, Phoenix Municipal Stadium played host to not only dominant pitching, but sparkling defensive plays as well.
Second baseman Luke Keaschall made a game-ending play on a hard ground ball up the middle with the tying run on third base, and Luke Hill made a terrific sliding play in the fourth inning on a grounder in the hole to keep Manning’s no-hitter in tact.
But, it was Isaiah Jackson’s home run robbery that got the people out of their seats.
“That’s just a game-changing play. A phenomenal play,” Bloomquist said.
Jackson, a freshman who was filling in at center field due to an injured Nick McLain, made an early case for catch-of-the-year on a long fly ball to right-center field in the second inning off the bat of Shaun Montoya.
As great of a play as it was, all Jackson could do was be ready to make a play.
“They said you’ve got to step up this weekend and fill (McLain’s) shoes,” Jackson said. “And I was like, ‘Alright, give it to me.’ I was just trying to play my role as a teammate and do what I can,” Jackson said.
With No. 24 on Jackson’s back, it was difficult to not think of Ken Griffey Jr., or Willie Mays at that moment. Griffey Jr. was an idol for Jackson growing up.
“We could put on some highlight reels (of Griffey) and I’ll be able to tell you what happens before it happens,” Jackson said.
“Everyone as a little kid wanted to swing like (Griffey) or play defense like him. I even tried to throw lefty like him when I was little. It’s an honor to wear that number.”
In the end, ASU baseball is off to a great start after completing the sweep of SDSU with a one-off against UNLV coming up on Tuesday. The new-and-improved Sun Devils pitching staff, didn’t allow any earned runs this weekend. Pair that with proven veterans on offense, and ASU could make games against power-houses Stanford, Oregon State and UCLA more competitive.
“Even with us not playing great, we still found ways to win,” Bloomquist said.
“I’ll take that positive any day.”