TEMPE, Ariz. — A walk-off double from Luke Keaschall and a career-high six innings from Timmy Manning propelled the Devils to a 5-4 win over the UCLA Bruins in the series opener on Thursday.
The importance of the win can’t be overstated, as the Devils had lost six straight, nine of their last 10 coming into the game.
UCLA (26-22-1, 11-15-1 Pac-12) struck in the opening frame as Kyle Karros brought home Duce Gourson with a two-out single.
ASU (30-21, 15-12 Pac-12) manufactured a run in the bottom of the second to tie the game. After Nu’u Contrades lead off the inning with a double, he advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a sacrifice fly from Jonny Weaver.
The Bruins took the lead right back in the top of the third, scoring two runs off the strength of three singles, an error, and a fielder’s choice.
UCLA’s Austin Kelly struck out the first two hitters he faced in the bottom half, but walked Ryan Campos to bring up Luke Keaschall. Keaschall delivered, drilling his 17th home run of the season to tie the game at 3.
Manning and Kelly each settled into the game in the middle innings, as what appeared to be a high-scoring affair shifted into a pitcher’s duel.
Manning gave up just one hit and walked another from the fourth through the sixth, and Kelly set down eight of the next nine batters he faced.
With two outs in the sixth, the Devils loaded the bases with a single and two walks, but Kelly was able to get Nick McLain to ground out to end the inning and keep the game tied.
After a scoreless top of the seventh from Blake Pivaroff, the Devils took the lead in the bottom half on a fielder’s choice from Jacob Tobias.
After he retired the side in order in the eighth, Owen Stevenson ran into trouble in the ninth, leading to Daylen Reyes tying the game with a two-out single.
McClain drew a walk to lead off the bottom of the ninth, and advanced him after a sacrifice bunt by Luke Hill. After Campos was intentionally walked to set up a potential double play, Keaschall dropped a bloop double just inside the left field line to win it.
LUUUUUUUUUUUKE WITH THE WINNER— Sun Devil Baseball (@ASU_Baseball) May 19, 2023
DEVILS WALK IT OFF!!! pic.twitter.com/YMFlhM2I1I
The skid turned this weekend’s series into a must win, as they now find themselves on the tournament bubble. Coming into the series, ASU was listed as D1Baseball’s second-to-last team in the field.
The Devils are also still jockeying for position in the Pac-12 baseball tournament. While comfortably in the tournament, they are one game back of fourth-place USC and a game and a half ahead of sixth-place Oregon.
The series continues May 19 at 6 p.m. and concludes on May 20 at noon.