TEMPE, Ariz.— The Arizona State baseball team has 12 wins over nationally ranked teams this year and has walked away with series wins over three in the top 15—including two on the road. The Sun Devils (26-21, 14-10 Pac-12) took two from No. 9 Oregon (36-16, 14-10 Pac-12) this weekend and moved into a third place tie with the Ducks in the Pac-12 Conference.
Coach Tim Esmay’s squad has won eight of its past 12 games at home and have only four games remaining in the forty-year old Packard Stadium before moving to nearby Phoenix Municipal Stadium beginning in 2015.
Esmay and company, however, are not focusing on the move, or next year for that matter. The Sun Devils are focused on two things, making the postseason and maintaining their epic 50-year streak of 30-win seasons. With eight games remaining, Arizona State is not facing a ranked team, but the Sun Devils have losses to under-performing teams in Wichita State, Arizona and Cal .
Friday night’s matchup between Oregon’s left-handed pitcher Tommy Thorpe (8-4) and Arizona State’s Brett Lilek (4-4) matched two of the top pitchers in the conference with Lilek sporting a 2.27 ERA and Thorpe right behind with a 2.40. Lilek’s opposing batting average of .189 is second best in the Pac-12 while Gold’s 71 strikeouts are fourth most in the conference.
The starters both allowed four hits but it was the five runs allowed by Lilek that spelled the difference in the 5-4 Oregon victory. Arizona State was charged with three costly errors and also stranded 10 runners throughout the contest. Ducks’ third baseman Mitchell Tolman paced the Ducks with a triple, two RBI and two runs scored while designated hitter Josh Graham went 2-of-4 with an RBI and run scored.
Saturday night’s affair began much like Friday night’s, two top pitchers giving up an uncharacteristic number of hits and runs. Oregon sent out righty Jeff Gold who was an undefeated 9-0 against Arizona State Ryan Kellogg’s 7-1 record. Oregon jumped all over Kellogg with four runs in the first five batters due to Kyle Garlick’s 3-run home run. Arizona State returned the favor with three runs in the first and four in the second, running Gold after only 2.2 innings. It was the shortest stint of the season for the Ducks hurler and also his first loss.
Lead-off batter Johnny Sewald hit a perfect 4-of-4 with three runs scored while shortstop Drew Stankiewicz rapped two doubles for two RBI and two runs scored. After the shaky start in the first inning, Kellogg went on to pitch a gem of a game with a career-high 12 strikeouts and only allowing two walks through eight innings.
Sunday saw another undefeated Oregon pitcher, Brando Tessar (4-0) on the mound, Darin Gillies (1-4) would get the start for Arizona State and retired the Ducks in order in the first frame including two swinging Ks.
Continuing in the trend of opening the game with a bang, the Sun Devils torched Tessar for five runs in the first inning off of a pair of doubles from right fielder Jake Peevyhouse and catcher Brian Serven. Stankiewicz and first baseman Nate Causey would also join the double party with the extra base hits in the fourth and eighth innings respectively.
Gillies finished the game allowing only two hits and one run through six innings and fanned three batters before giving way to reliever Jordan Aboites.
The remaining schedule for Arizona State includes a mid-week trip to face UNLV on Tuesday night before returning home to host Utah for a weekend set and the final home game will be May 20 against Abilene Christian. The Sun Devils close out the regular season at Washington State for a three-game set in Pullman, Wash.