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ASU Baseball: Sun Devils drop first Pac-12 series of the year in Eugene against No. 23 Oregon

ASU loses two of three as pitching struggles continue

COLLEGE BASEBALL: APR 11 Arizona State at Grand Canyon Photo by Zac BonDurant/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

EUGENE, Or., — Arizona State (29-15, 15-6 Pac-12) suffered its first conference series loss against No. 23 Oregon, but managed to avoid the sweep after salvaging the final game of a three-game series this past weekend.

The Suns Devils pitching struggled, giving up 33 total runs in three games played in Eugene, forcing the offense to try to keep pace. ASU fell to second in the Pac-12 standings, a half-game back from No. 7 Stanford.

Friday: Oregon 11, Arizona State 5

Junior right-handed pitcher Jonah Gilbin earned the start Friday evening and allowed seven hits, six runs and striking out five in 3.2 innings pitched during a rocky outing.

The scoring began in the first inning for the Ducks when senior infielder Drew Cowley blasted a two-out homer to left center.

The Sun Devil’s offense responded in the top of the third with a single from freshman infielder Luke Hill, which drove in senior catcher Bronson Balholm to tie the game at one.

After Oregon responded in the third with another solo shot, the Ducks took control of the game with seven runs in the bottom of the fourth. Three straight singles from the Ducks top of the order put Gilbin in a jam and forced him out of the game.

Graduate right-handed pitcher Nolan Lebamoff entered the game in hopes to escape the threat but couldn’t find the third out the inning before a double, walk and grand slam from Cowley blew the game open. A well-executed relay to home got the Sun Devils out of the inning, but not before the game felt out of reach in only the bottom of the fourth.

OU scored one run in the sixth and the seventh to extend their lead to 11-2 entering the final two innings on the night.

Arizona State responded with two runs in the eighth and a run in the top of the ninth, but couldn’t come back from a catastrophic fourth inning.

Saturday: Oregon 16, Arizona State 10

Another poor start from the Sun Devil’s bullpen plagued Arizona State, this time the victim being junior right-handed pitcher Khristian Curtis. Curtis’ three innings of work ended with nine hits, eight runs and only one strikeout on 77 pitches.

Senior designated hitter Wyatt Crenshaw drove in the first run of the game in this high scoring affair with a fly ball to right field, giving the Sun Devils an early advantage.

Oregon would respond, however, in the bottom half with a single again from Cowley. In the bottom of the second, OU scored another run on a sacrifice fly to give them a 2-1 lead.

Crenshaw’s second homer of the day tied the game in the second inning. Crenshaw hit his fifth and sixth home run’s of the year to move up to fifth in the Pac-12.

Again, the big inning came early for the Ducks, this time in the bottom of the third. Two doubles, a single and a walk plated two runs in the inning already for Oregon before another big home run capped off the rally.

This time off the bat of junior catcher Josiah Cromwick, the three-run blast put the Ducks in a commanding 7-1 lead. Curtis would finish the inning for ASU after another RBI doubled dropped in.

In the top of the fourth, junior second baseman Luke Keaschall cranked the first pitch he faced to center field for his ninth home run on the year.

Back-to back home runs from Oregon in the fifth pushed their lead to seven and made it the second consecutive double digit scoring game for OU.

Keaschall sent his ninth home run on a rocket far into the Eugene sky in the top of the seventh. In Saturday’s slug fest, PK Park saw 30 hits and 26 runs as balls were pounded all over the yard.

Arizona State surrendered a four spot in the bottom of the eighth to effectively put the game out of reach and give the maroon and gold their second loss to Oregon and their first Pac-12 series loss on the year.

Sunday: Oregon 6, Arizona State 9

Sunday’s win for the Sun Devils was a much-needed effort to avoid a sweep in a series that was already going off the rails on the mound. It was scoring in the latter innings that carried the Sun Devils to a victory and salvaged a game in a poor showing from Arizona State.

OU jumped out to an early 4-0 lead in the first two innings as the Sun Devils starting pitching gave up runs early yet again. The Sun Devils starters gave up a total of 14 runs through the first three innings of each game.

The Devil’s comeback effort began in the top of the sixth, scoring three runs — two of them via Hill’s two run line drive that snuck out which gave the Sun Devils life in the third game of the series.

In the seventh, it was Hill again hitting a ball over the wall, this time taking a bounce for a ground-rule double that allowed Crenshaw to score.

Two batters later, Keaschall hit his Pac-12 leading 10th homer, scoring Hill and giving the Sun Devils the lead late.

The very next batter, sophomore first baseman Jacob Tobias, flew a deep ball off the batter’s eye to extend the Sun Devils lead to 7-5.

The afternoon was finished off with freshman third baseman Nu’u Contrades leaving the yard to right center for a two-run home run.

Arizona State held on for a 9-6 victory in the final game of the series, leaving the series on a high note in an otherwise sloppy showing on the road.

Arizona State will face their biggest test of the year so far when No. 7 Stanford rolls into Tempe for a three-game series. First place in the Pac-12 is on the line as well as rankings for the postseason with regional talks beginning to heat up. The first game is at 6:30 p.m. on May 5 at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.