Bracket Critical: Long Beach State Downs Arizona State 4-2

Zack Rivera hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning. Photo courtesy LBSU Athletics

Zack Rivera hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning. Photo courtesy LBSU Athletics

PHOENIX, Ariz. – Long Beach State Dirtbags’ junior right fielder Zack Rivera blasted a three-run homer down the line in left in the eighth inning as Long Beach State downs No. 16 Arizona State Sun Devils 4-2 at Phoenix Municipal Stadium on Saturday night. The big fly ruined what had been a brilliant performance by Sun Devils’ starter Ryan Kellogg (Jr., LHP) and evened the series at a game each with the rubber match on Sunday.

Kellogg left the game leading 2-0 in the bottom of the eighth after surrendering back-to-back singles to open the inning to pinch hitter Luke Rasmussen (Fr.) and shortstop Garrett Hampson (So.) giving the Dirtbags a no-out, runners on first and second, opportunity.

Sun Devils’ junior righty Jordan Aboites came on and got Zack Domingues to ground into a fielder’s choice for the first out of the inning. However, after working the count full, the junior gave up Rivera’s second long ball on the year as well as the lead. The junior would retire the next two hitters to end the frame with Long Beach State leading 3-2.

Dominance

Kellogg started the game by retiring the first six hitters he faced before giving up a single and an intentional walk in the third only to retire the next five hitters he would face. The southpaw saw two runners on base in only two innings, the second inning because of an intentional walk and the eighth inning before being pulled.

The junior officially stuck out eight over seven innings of work and had held the Dirtbags’ scoreless on three hits and two walks headed to the eighth with a 2-0 advantage. He gets tagged with two earned runs because of Rivera’s home run ball but on a night when clutch hits were few, he can leave with the confidence of not having surrendered any of them.

What Brown Can Do

Not to be lost in the masterful outing by Kellogg is the stellar effort coming from his opponent, Dirtbags’ junior right-hander Tanner Brown. Brown worked through a precarious first couple of innings but was able to limit the damage Arizona State was able to inflict to just a run. The junior settled in and retired seven consecutive Sun Devils until running into trouble in the sixth.

Brown left the game with two outs and a runner on first in the seventh inning having allowed just two earned runs after pitching around a pair of jams. In the first inning, after hitting lead-off man Johnny Sewald (Jr., CF) with a pitch, the righty struck out Jake Peevyhouse (Sr., LF) and Colby Woodmansee (So., SS) before surrendering an RBI single to RJ Ybarra (Jr., DH). Brown would quickly recover to close the inning with a third strike out, this time of Trever Allen (Sr., RF).

In the sixth, Sewald drew a walk to lead-off the frame and Brown struck out Peevyhouse again before Woodmansee singled to right to put runners on first and second. The script flipped as Ybarra flied out and Allen laced an RBI single before Brown got Brian Sevren (So., C) to ground into the fielder’s choice to end the inning.

Brown finished with five strikeouts and allowed five hits and two walks over 6.2 innings pitched and his damage management in the first and sixth prevented the Sun Devils from blowing the game wide open.

Tanner Brown courtesy LBSU Athletics

Tanner Brown limited the Sun Devils to two earned runs over 6.2 innings pitched. Photo courtesy LBSU Athletics

Castaway

While SunDevils’ baserunners may not have had a friend like Wilson from the popular Tom Hanks’ film Castaway, they felt no less stranded on Saturday night. With runners in scoring position the Sun Devils managed only a pair of RBI singles by Ybarra and Allen to account for their only scoring. The sting of these missed opportunities will stick because this was indeed a game ASU could have ran away with.

Arizona State was 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position. However, the big factor in the nine failed at bats was the reality that seven of those failures were due to strikeouts. In the first inning the Sun Devils’ struck out three times with runners in scoring position and then once more in the seventh.

The Sun Devils would put a runner into scoring position on five separate occasions, including each of the final four innings, Saturday night. The feat was pulled off three of those times with less than two outs which further illustrates the LBSU staffs’ ability to stymie the Arizona State offense in key moments.

Seventh Inning Strategy

In the seventh, Brown retired the first two Sun Devils before surrendering a single to Aboites. Long Beach State head coach Troy Buckley turned to freshman southpaw Keola Pargas to set up back-to-back lefty-on-lefty matchups with Sewald and Andrew Shaps (Fr., LF) coming to bat. Paragas lost the matchup by walking Sewald, then Arizona State head coach Tracy Smith countered by pinch-hitting righty Joey Bielek (Sr.).

Buckley went back to his pen for sophomore right-hander Austin McGeorge who would strike out Beilek looking at his 1-2 offering. McGeorge would get the win because Rivera would homer in the next Dirtbags at bat.

Tidbits

  • Ty Provencher (Jr., RHP) pitched around a pair of singles in the ninth to record his fourth save of the season for the Dirtbags.
  • Sewald continues to dominate as a lead-off man reaching base three times, stealing a base, and scoring twice for the Sun Devils.
  • The Long Beach State pen has been a difference maker, throwing six scoreless inning in the series thus far.

The two teams battle in the rubber match on Sunday at 3:30 pm et as the Dirtbags send freshman righty Chris Mathewson (1-1, 0.82) who is coming off seven innings of no-hit ball to the hill against Arizona State’s Brett Lilek (0-1, 5.40).

About the Author

Mark West

Mark West grew up playing and loving baseball. In college, he found an interest in writing and reporting on sports. He graduated from Arkansas State University in 1999 with a Bachelor of Science in Radio and Television Broadcasting with a News emphasis and a minor in Political Science.

Mark can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @MarkWestCBC
Mark began writing a few years ago informally about politics and sports on various blogs, but has focused primarily on baseball writing for the last two years. He loves Arkansas State Red Wolves baseball and writes about the games and the players for the Red Wolves and the Sun Belt Conference.

Mark is a member of the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, giving him official votes in the Dick Howser Trophy, Regional Players of the Year, and NCBWA All-America voting.

Follow on Twitter @MarkWestCBC