SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Arizona State (32-23, 17-14 Pac-12) won a massive game at Scottsdale Stadium on Thursday against No. 10 Oregon State (39-17, 18-13 Pac-12), exploding on the offensive end for 20 hits in a 14-10 finish of its final pool play matchup of the 2023 Pac-12 Baseball Tournament.
Huge performances from Nu’u Contrades, Luke Keaschall, Ryan Campos, Nick McLain and, an unlikely hero, Bronson Balhom, have let Willie Bloomquist’s group live to fight another day after coming off a tough loss to Arizona on Tuesday.
In a game the Sun Devils had to have, Manning (1-4, 7.26 ERA) took the mound against the 10th-ranked Beavers for the second time this season. Back in April, Manning tossed two innings of one-run ball in the 11-7 comeback win for Arizona State over OSU. Manning has had his share of ups and downs this year, thus the seven-plus ERA, but on Thursday, Manning was solid for three innings.
A lead-off home run given up in the second inning to Oregon State’s Mason Guerra was all Manning would allow. The lefty struck out five of the final seven batters he faced following the solo shot, throwing just 45 pitches — 31 of them for strikes.
The Sun Devil offense saw Manning’s fire, and matched it with desire.
ASU scored two-or-more runs in six separate innings, including a triplet of deuces in the second, third and fourth innings. The top of the second opened the scoring for the game on a Campos (2-for-5, 2 RBI) two-run single, and the top of third saw a coupling of run-scoring singles by Contrades (5-for-6, 3B, 3 RBI) and Balholm (3-for-5, 3 RBI). Balholm only had nine hits all year prior to that clutch knock to push the score to 4-1, in favor of the Sun Devils.
Back-to-back RBI triples by McLain and Contrades in the top of the fourth pushed the lead out to 6-1, followed by a shutdown inning on the mound by Khristian Curtis. After a quiet inning at the plate in the fifth by ASU, Curtis walked three straight Beavers to load the bases with only one out. Two pitches that got away from the catcher, Balholm, allowed two runners to score with a sac-fly in between them, followed by a two-out single by Mikey Kane that brought the game back to 6-5.
ASU came right back with two more two-run innings in the sixth and seventh. McLain hit his second triple of the day, scoring Luke Hill in the sixth, and Contrades drove in McLain in the next at-bat — both with two outs. In the seventh, Luke Keaschall hit a two-run blast just over the left field wall to move the lead back out to 10-5.
Blake Pivaroff came up clutch with two scoreless innings after the shaky ending to the fifth. Pivaroff recorded five fly-ball outs, with a few that could’ve been home runs in parks that aren’t 430 feet to center field and instead, they found the leather of Jackson, McLain and Campos.
The Sun Devils added onto the lead in the eighth thanks to a bases loaded, two-run single by Balholm, taking back the two runs he’d given up earlier in the game. A three hit day for Balholm, after having just 37 at-bats all season, is a welcomed and timely contribution in a big game for ASU. Luke Hill put the game out of reach with another two-run single that titled the score to 14-5.
Owen Stevenson relieved Curtis in the eighth, and surrendered a two RBI jam-shot single to Oregon State, but avoided further damage with a strikeout to end the frame. Stevenson gave up three more runs in the bottom of the ninth to bring OSU within slam range with bases loaded before striking out Ruben Cedillo, closing the door on Oregon State.
Awaiting the outcomes of Stanford vs. Washington and USC vs. Oregon, ASU looks to advance to the semifinals of the Pac-12 Tournament on Friday, May 26.