Sun Devil Baseball Holds Down Nation's Top Offense in 3-2 Win Over Arizona
PHOENIX – Sun Devil Baseball finished up a three-game series against Arizona with a 3-2 victory on Saturday night at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
Arizona State (16-7, 5-4 Pac-12) tamed the nation's leading offense thanks to an excellent start from left-hander Justin Fall and a strong relief effort from right-hander Will Levine. The Sun Devil offense managed to make the most of their hits, scoring three runs thanks to timely hitting.
The Sun Devil pitching staff came up clutch on several occasions, stranding 10 Arizona runners on the night. The Wildcats were held to a meager 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position and were held to a season low two runs (averaged 9.2 runs/game coming into tonight).
Leaving it all on the mound in a tremendous start, Justin Fall was pulled in the top of the seventh after the first two batters reached base. With the Sun Devils holding a 3-1 lead, Will Levine entered the game and immediately proceeded to strike out the first batter he faced on three pitches. The team's leader in double plays induced did what he does best, rolling up an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play to get Arizona State out of trouble.
The Wildcats threatened again in the eighth inning, with the Maroon & Gold still clinging to a 3-1 lead. Levine once again relied on his movement, trading two outs for a run by inducing another double play. With the tying and go-ahead runners on base, Levine found an extra gear to strike out Nik McClaughry in a pressure-packed seven-pitch at bat to end the threat. He would go on to retire the side in the ninth and earn his second save of the season.
"Justin was phenomenal tonight, absolutely phenomenal," Head Coach Tracy Smith remarked. "For him to give us six innings against that offense, that was huge. Especially with the bullpen being used the previous two nights. Justin came through like we needed him to."
- Sean McLain extended his hitting streak to 21 games with a two-out single in the eighth inning. He becomes just the eighth Sun Devil since 1998 to have a hitting streak of 21 or more games.
LONGEST HITTING STREAKS SINCE 1998
26 – Riccio Torrez (2010)
24 – Jeremy West (2003)
23 – Andre Ethier (2003)
21 – Sean McLain (2021)
21 – Spencer Torkelson (2019)
21 – Ike Davis (2008)
21 – Colin Curtis (2006)
21 – Brooks Conrad (2000)
- Arizona entered the game as the nation's leading offense, averaging 9.2 runs/game through the first 25 games of the season. The Sun Devils held them to a season-low two runs, the 34th time ASU has held a team to five runs or less in Jason Kelly's 40 games as the pitching coach.
- Justin Fall has been excellent over his past two starts, allowing only one run over 12.2 innings of work. He has a 4-0 record and a 1.38 ERA in 26 innings at home this season.
- Will Levine earned his second save of the season working a season-high three innings of relief. He has allowed only one run over his last six innings.
- Hunter Jump came through with a three-hit game, his seventh career 3+ hit performance.
- Arizona State played clean baseball, not committing an error for the second straight game and 10th time this season.
Left-hander Justin Fall made his ninth appearance and fifth start of 2021, setting the tone with a dominant first inning. He set the dangerous Wildcat lineup down in order, including a strikeout of star hitter Brandon Boissiere. In the bottom half of the frame, Drew Swift worked a leadoff walk, but was erased on an inning-ending double play.
Fall had the strike-out pitch working early, as he set down to more Arizona hitters in the second on his way to posting another scoreless frame. He worked around a one-out double, the beginning of a theme of stranding runners.
The Sun Devil bats got to work in the bottom half of the second, touching up Wildcats' starter T.J. Nichols. Hunter Jump led things off with a double and Ethan Long followed with a walk. Each runner moved to scoring position on a wild pitch, giving ASU runners on second and third with no outs. Jack Moss got the start and immediately rewarded the coaching staff's decision, delivering a sac fly to give the home team a 1-0 lead. Hunter Haas followed with a great approach, going the other way with a RBI double down the right field line.
Arizona's offense threatened once again in the third inning, with a single and hit by pitch putting two runners on with one out. Designated hitter Jacob Berry got the Wildcats on the board with a single, but Justin Fall would limit the damage. He forced back-to-back groundouts to strand a pair of runners and kept the lead at 2-1. Another leadoff walk by Drew Swift started a potential rally, but the next three hitters were retired.
Fall had to work out of trouble in the fourth inning, as two Wildcats reached base with one out. He recovered from a shot up the middle that ricochet off his foot and to first baseman Jack Moss for the out, getting McClaughry to ground out to get out of the jam. Arizona State went down in order in the bottom of the fourth as Nichols found his rhythm.
For the third straight inning, Arizona managed to get two runners on base with one out. Fall was not fazed by the action on the basepaths, as he focused on the task at hand. Facing the Wildcats cleanup hitter Daniel Susac with runners on first and second, Fall induced a clutch double play to keep the Sun Devils in front 2-1. ASU was set down 1-2-3 in the bottom half of the frame.
A much-need less stressful inning ensued for Fall in the sixth, as he faced the Wildcat lineup a third time. He worked around a one-out single, retiring the next two hitters to complete six innings of one-run baseball.
Joe Lampe was hit by a Nichols pitch, breaking up a streak of nine straight batters retired for the right-hander. This would spark a rally, as Sean McLain worked a walk to put two runners on with no outs. After Lampe was caught stealing third, Hunter Jump came through with a clutch one-out RBI single to provide a crucial insurance run.
Justin Fall came out for the seventh inning, but was relieved by Will Levine after the first two hitters of the inning reached base. Levine came through in a big situation, striking out Wildcats star Jacob Berry and getting three-hole hitter Brandon Boissiere to ground into a double play to get out of the jam, maintaining the 3-1 advantage for the home side. Arizona State went down quietly in their half of the seventh, setting up for major drama late in the game.
The Wildcats attempted to cut into the two-run lead in the top of the eighth, getting the first two runners on courtesy of singles. However, Will Levine induced another double play ball, trading a run for two crucial outs. With the lead now only one run, Levine struck out McClaughry for the final out of the inning in an epic showdown with the game on the line.
Two-out singles from Sean McLain and Hunter Jump sparked a rally and required the Wildcats to dip into their bullpen. Three Arizona relievers eventually combined to retire the side, with Arizona State leading 3-2 heading into the ninth.
Levine came out for a third inning, looking to shut the door down and earn his second save of the season. It wouldn't come easily, as the top of the Wildcats order was due up. Levine stepped up when his team needed him the most, registering one of only two 1-2-3 innings for the Sun Devil pitching staff on the night, preventing any thought of a visitor's comeback. Arizona State avoided the sweep with a 3-2 victory over their rivals.
The same two sides matchup on Tuesday, April 6 down in Tucson at Hi Corbett Field. A live stream will be available at the following link, with live stats available here. Fans are encouraged to follow along pre-game and in-game content throughout the weekend on the Sun Devil Baseball Twitter account: @ASU_Baseball, especially for key weather updates and time changes.