PHOENIX, Ariz. – The Arizona State Sun Devils (9-5) rallied for four runs in the eighth inning to put away the fiesty the Long Beach Dirtbags (9-6) by a 9-3 outcome on Sunday at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. The win clinched this bracket critical series 2-1 as the big eighth inning ended the six scoreless innings that the Dirtbags’ pen had put together in the series.
In the eighth inning rally, the Sun Devils mustered only one hit, a slap single through the right side of the infield by junior infielder Jordan Aboites that extended the lead to 8-2. In the frame the Arizona State offense would add three walks, two hit batsmen and a fielder’s choice to plate four runs while building an insurmountable 9-2 lead.
Take The Eighth
Arizona State took the game away from the Dirtbags in the eighth inning, literally! The Sun Devils opened the inning by drawing a pair of back-to-back walks as Colby Woodmansee (So., SS) and RJ Ybarra (Jr., 1B) were put on by LBSU freshman reliever Sean Trimble (RHP) on only nine pitches. After a fly out, Zach Cerbo (So., C) reached base after being hit by a 2-1 delivery to load the bases with one away.
Long Beach State head coach Troy Buckley turned to junior righty Trey Ferketic in hopes of keeping a scoreless series for his bullpen. The junior started out shaky by hitting Brian Serven (So., DH) with his second pitch of the game to push the ASU lead to 6-2, ending the pen’s scoreless series. Ferketic then issued a four-pitch walk to David Greer (So., 3B) to tack on another run for ASU, extending the lead to 7-2.
Buckley was forced to his pen again, in search of strikes, and turned to Vaughn Berberet (RSo., LHP) to stop the bleeding. Berberet got ahead of Aboites at 1-2 before the junior slapped a single through the right side to add another run at 8-2. The Dirtbags’ defense would concede another run on a fielder’s choice while taking the closer out at second to put runners at the corners with two outs and trailing 9-2. The southpaw struck out freshman pinch hitter Coltin Gerhart on three pitches to end the threat.
Sun Devils’ junior southpaw Brett Lilek earned his first win of the year to even his season mark at 1-1, allowing two earned runs over five innings of work on four hits and a pair of walks. The junior struck out five Dirtbags and retired nine straight hitters in between a first inning walk and a fourth inning walk that would lead to a two-run rally for LBSU. After a double-steal put runners on second and third, senior left fielder Alex Bishop provided the Dirtbags’ only real excitement on the day with a two-run single to left field that cut the Sun Devil lead to 3-2.
Lilek would recompose and strike out three straight hitters, two of which to end the fourth inning threat and the third to lead off the fifth inning, before freshman center fielder Joey Sanchez doubled down the left field line. The southpaw struck out the next two Dirtbags on six pitches to end the runner-in-scoring-position threat and hold the Arizona State lead.
In the sixth, after Lilek allowed a double to Zack Rivera (Jr., RF) to lead off the frame. Arizona State head coach Tracy Smith brought in starter-turned-reliever Darin Gillies (Sr., RHP) to get an experienced arm in the game to hold the lead and wrap up the series. The senior didn’t miss the opportunity and was remarkable out of the pen on Sunday. Gillies hit the first hitter he faced before retiring the next nine Dirtbags he faced going perfect from that point on.
In all the right-hander struck out four on three no-hit innings of work to keep the Long Beach State offense at bay while the Sun Devils added to their lead. Gillies threw three scoreless innings in game one for the Sun Devils and has proven himself to be a solid option out of the pen for coach Smith.
No-Hitter, No More
Long Beach State freshman righty Chris Mathewson threw seven innings of no-hit ball last Sunday against the Wichita State Shockers. However, this Sunday was a different story as he allowed eight hits over six innings which led to five runs, four earned, as he fell to 1-2 on the year. Mathewson did hold the Sun Devils without a hit in the first inning before serving up four singles that led to two runs in the second inning.
In his six innings of work, he allowed the lead-off man on three times while the Devils hit .500 (4-for-8) with runners in scoring position during his time on the mound. He served up a solo shot to Sun Devil Brian Serven in the sixth inning before leaving the game. The freshman faced runners in scoring position in half of the innings he pitched on Sunday.
Too Many Zeros
The Long Beach State offense really struggled to get on track in the rubber match. Credit the great performances of the Sun Devils’ staff for the struggles, but the zeros on the board spoke volumes of the direction this game went. The Dirtbags failed to score in seven at bats, while scoring twice in the fourth and once in the ninth. LBSU got the leadoff man on once in the game, the Rivera double in the sixth, and failed to score him.
The squad went 0-9 with a pair of strikeouts in two-out at bats and had one hit with runners in scoring position. After stranding a runner at third base in the first, the Dirtbags put runners in scoring position in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings with less than two outs and managed to capitalize with only two runs in the fourth.
LBSU put runners on second and third after freshman pinch hitter Brock Lundquist drew a one-out walk and Jonathan Serven (Jr., 3B) doubled, yet managed to score only one of them on an RBI groundout by Chris Hutting (Jr., C). The Dirtbags managed to score in only five out of 27 innings in the series. On Friday they scored in a four-run third inning in a loss, while on Saturday they plated three in the eighth and one in the ninth for the win.
In the sixth inning, with a 4-2 lead and two outs sophomore Brian Serven (DH) faced Mathewson and pounded a 2-1 delivery not only over the wall in left, but also on top of the hill that is behind that wall. The long ball was Serven’s first of the year but the timing of it seemed like the icing on the cake for the Sun Devils as it extended a two-run lead to three while Gillies was pitching near perfect on the mound.
The Dirtbags had launched the only two homers of the series up to that point and Serven’s blast also seemed to serve a notice of reminder that the Sun Devils’ offense has some pop this season and will be a force to be respected as the season winds on. Serven was also part of the four-run, eighth inning rally, reaching base after getting hit by a 1-0 pitch before being pulled for a pinch runner.
- Long Beach State’s Darren McCaughan (Fr., RHP) threw another hitless inning on Sunday with a pair of strikeouts for two hitless innings in the series with three strikeouts. He is now hitless over his last five innings pitched out of the pen.
- Arizona State’s David Greer reached base three times, going 2-for-3 with a walk, while leading the team with three RBI.
- The Sun Devils’ nine runs were scored by seven different hitters with Cerbo and Sevren each scoring twice.
The Sun Devils look like a team that is poised for the challenges of a grueling Pac 12 schedule that will include several teams in the Top 25 and quite possibly in the post season as well. This win helps solidify their out-of-conference RPI and positions Arizona State well for at-large consideration.
Long Beach State came in needing to do some work and leaves with work still to do. Playing in the Big West will help with the likes of UC Santa Barbara and Cal State Fullerton competing for the crown in an always competitive conference race.