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Sun Devil Baseball Opens Bloomquist Tenure With 3-1 Victory

Feb 18, 2022

PHOENIX – Sun Devil Baseball team kicked off the Willie Bloomquist era in style in its 2022 opener on Friday night, taking down the Dixie State Trailblazers, 3-1, at Phoenix Municipal Stadium in front of over 3,000 Sun Devil faithful. 
 
In his return to the diamond after nearly a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19 in 2020 and a season-ending knee injury last year, Conor Davis homered in his very first at-bat in a Sun Devil uniform and the pitchers and defense handled business from there. 
 
Adam Tulloch was electric in his debut, striking out seven in 4.1 hitless, scoreless innings of work. Christian Bodlovich tossed 2.2 scoreless innings to earn the win and Will Levine brought it home for his first save of the year. The Sun Devil pitching staff kept the Trailblazers quiet all night, with DSU being held to one hit and no runs through the first eight innings before making things a little hairy in the ninth.
 
The victory marks the first in the coaching career for Willie Bloomquist, as he made his debut at the helm on his alma mater on Friday. 
TURNING POINT
The Sun Devils did all the damage they would inevitably need in the second inning against Trailblazer ace Dillon Holliday. Making his return to the diamond after a knee injury that kept him out for the entirety of last year's season, Conor Davis made Holliday pay on a hanging slider, sending it over the left field wall in emotional moment for the super senior and an early 1-0 lead for the Devils. Shortly after, designated hitter Jacob Tobias, who went 2-for-4 in his Sun Devil debut, scored the second run of the night after second baseman Sean McClain's RBI fielder's choice.
THE BIG MOMENT
The Devils faced some traffic on the basepath late in this one but it was nothing junior closer Will Levine couldn't handle. Levine inherited a pair with one out and a ball in the count in the top of the eight but quickly issued a pair of groundouts – stranding the pair as he covered first on a soft ball into the hole between first and second for a huge out to save a run and keep it a 3-0 game through eight. The DSU bats came alive in the ninth with three soft singles to plate a run, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate. Bloomquist stepped off the top stair and looked like he might pull the hook on Levine, but sophomore catcher Nate Baez waved him off as Levine was throwing strikes and hitting his spots. Levine rewarded his faith by issuing a soft-dribbler to Ethan Long at third, who tagged the base for the force and the final out. 
NOTABLES

  • Junior left-handed pitcher Adam Tulloch finished with seven strikeouts over 4.1 innings pitched, not allowing a single hit in his Sun Devil debut. ASU's pitchers finished with nine strikeouts on the night.
  • Christan Bodlovich earned the win only because Tulloch did not go the minimum 5.0 innings required, with the Sun Devil coaching staff keeping an eye on his pitch count and pulling him at 73 pitches – regardless of the scenario. 
  • The Sun Devils played solid in the field with no errors. ASU had 40 games last season with an error or less and went 29-11 in those contests. 
  • Conor Davis returned to the plate by hitting a home run during the bottom of the second inning, his first at-bat of the season.
  • Davis and Tobias record four of ASU's eight hits on the evening with Joe Lampe also adding a two-hit night. 
  • Lampe shined in centerfield, commanding the outfield rotation and keeping the Trailblazers from advancing.

QUOTEABLES
 
Willie Bloomquist on his first career victory…
"It was good to get the first win out of the way. Our pitching staff threw the ball extremely well tonight, starting with Adam Tulloch. He came in and set the tone and pounded the strike zone and he threw the ball outstanding."
 
…on Davis' homer…
 
"Just knowing what he's gone through in his rehab process to get back on the field, it's pretty dang special for him to come back in his first at-bat and hit a homer," Bloomquist said. "Really proud of him, how he carried himself, how he's battled this whole thing. "He's a huge piece of our team and obviously a big leader [in] everything he brings inside the clubhouse, but to see him go out and connect with one early on to get him on the board. That was a pretty special moment."
 
Conor Davis on his emotional home run…
"It's been an emotional day, an emotional week, it's been so much about getting my knee right for so long, and now it's about us. I saw it well all night, I said to myself, if I see the slider down, I won't swing, but if he lets it hang, I'll let it rip, thankfully he let it hang."
 
 Jacob Tobias on his first career start at ASU…
"It was a little scary, I will admit, but after having a lot of talks with people... I will mention Ethan Long said something really inspiring to me that just helped me clear my mind a lot. He just said that we all know the work we've been putting in, and if we're nervous that just means... you need to believe that the amount of work that you put in is going to show, just like you trusted. Him saying that really helped me."

Adam Tulloch on his first start…
"It was awesome. Coming from COVID, when you weren't allowed to have a crowd. This place got pretty packed tonight which was a pretty cool experience. I'm just grateful for it. You put in a lot of hard work for this and it's nice to see how the results pay off."

on pressure as the Opening Night starter…
"There's always pressure, but that's what we live for, that's what we train for. You work through it, and use it as a little bit of fire in you and fuel it, so [I] love it."

on his efficient rhythm… 
"(I was) just attacking hitters. I noticed they were trying to mess with me a little bit with my timing and stuff like that. I just stayed focus, stayed locked it and I think if I can continue to do that this season, then I'll stay pretty good and stay attacking."

Will Levine on coming into a pressure-filled situation… 
 
"It seemed like I was the only guy that wasn't nervous. I was the only person that felt, besides my teammates, that knew I had it. It's why you play the game.
INNING-BY-INNING
 
First inning
It was a dream start for the Devils as left-handed pitcher Adam Tulloch struck out the side, flashing 94 and 95 on the scoreboard and issuing two backward K's right out the gates. Sean McClain singled and managed to get to second base due to an error in the outfield but was eventually stranded at third to keep it scoreless in the first. 
 
Second inning
Tulloch brought his firepower from the first inning and was able to work around the lead-off walk, before retiring the next three batters. In his first at-bat since recovering from a serious injury, first baseman Conor Davis scored the first run of 2022 for the Sun Devils, launching a home run into far left field on a 1-2 slider. Later in inning, Jacob Tobias followed up with a single for his first collegiate hit and later scoring on a Sean McClain fielder's choice, taking a 2-0 lead.
 
Third inning
Tulloch posted his third scoreless inning, capping it off with his fifth strikeout. In his second at-bat of the night, Conor Davis singled up middle field. Tobias doubled, allowing Davis to advance to third but ASU couldn't get the timely knock and the score remained 2-0.
 
Fourth inning
Tulloch settled into his position on the pitcher's mound, racking up seven total strikeouts for the evening with two more in the fourth. Trailblazers pitcher Dillon Holliday set down the Sun Devils in order in the bottom half, keeping the game at 2-0.
 
Fifth inning
Wrapping up his night, Tulloch got the first out of the inning before giving way to right-hander Christian Bodlovich. Tulloch finished with seven strikeouts over 4.1 innings pitched, not allowing a hit in his Sun Devil debut. Halfway through the bottom of the inning, Dixie State brought in Jimmy Borzone to replace Holliday on the pitcher's mound. Centerfielder Joe Lampe scored the Sun Devil's third run of the night, playing off of Tobias reaching first base on a third strike wild pitch.
 
Sixth inning
Continuing the successful pitching theme for the night, Bodlovich retired the side in order. Jimmy Borzone held the Sun Devils scoreless in the bottom half of the inning, keeping the score at 3-0.
 
Seventh inning
Coming back for more, Bodlovich continued to not give up any hits to the Trailblazers with three quick outs. Bodlovich called his night by getting Dixie State's first baseman Sean Keating to hit a fly ball out to left field, with freshman Will Rogers making a great running catch to end the top of the seventh. With the Sun Devils facing Dixie State's Borzone for the second time of the night, they were unable to get any runs in the seventh inning.
 
Eighth inning
After two innings, the Sun Devils swapped out Bodlovich for Brock Peery before replacing him with junior Will Levine to take over on the pitcher's mound. Levine issued a pair of groundouts to escape the jam he inherited and the Sun Devils made a nice defensive play with Levine covering first to save a run. ASU threatened to blow things open in the bottom half of the frame with a pair of leadoff baserunners moving to scoring position on Hunter Haas sac bunt but DSU's Zack Thomas got a pair of strikeouts to escape the jam and keep the Trailblazers in striking distance.
 
Ninth inning
After having a successful first night in left field, the Sun Devils brought sophomore Kade Higgins to replace Will Rogers at the top of the inning. Dixie State threatened with three soft singles to get on the scoreboard and put the go-ahead run at the plate with two outs but Levine handled the adversity in stride, inducing a game-ending fielder's choice to seal the deal. 
UP NEXT
The Sun Devils continue their three-game set with Dixie State tomorrow evening at 6 p.m. AZT at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Fans can visit the baseball schedule page at www.thesundevils.com to follow the game via live stream or live stats. The projected pitching matchup is Arizona State's Kyle Luckham and Dixie State's Brett Portham,