Sun Devil Baseball Rides Two Grand Slams to Series Victory Over DSU
PHOENIX – The bats came alive in furious fashion as Sun Devil baseball rallied behind two grand slams and five total grand slams in a 17-8 rout of Dixie State to seal the first series victory of the Willie Bloomquist era on Sunday at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
Will Rogers recorded the first three hits of his Sun Devils career, including the go-ahead grand slam, a towering solo shot and an RBI double as he racked up six RBIs to pace the way. Nate Baez added a grand slam of his own while Joe Lampe and Conor Davis added their second home runs of the season.
ASU recorded 14 hits – 10 of which for extra bases on five homers and five doubles. All nine players in the starting lineup recorded a hit with six of them recording RBIs.
After going 4-for-22 with two outs with no two-out RBIs in the first two games of the series, ASU posted a gaudy 16 two-out RBIs on 9-of-17 hitting with two outs on Sunday.
The game was very much in the balance until ASU's rally in the sixth and seventh innings as Dixie State capitalized on numerous free passes on the base path to jump to a 8-5 lead after posting two runs in its half of the first, third, fourth and fifth innings.
ASU went to Will Levine to staunch the onslaught and the junior closer responded with 2.1 innings of scoreless relief, striking out two and allowing just one hit to calm the waters and set the tone for the comeback. Levine, Jared Glenn, Boyd Vander Kooi and Josh Hansell held the Trailblazers scoreless over the final 4.1 innings.
Will Levine's entry into the game earned him the player of the game honors from head coach Willie Bloomquist. DSU had just posted its third-straight two-run inning and still had a pair on the basepath with an 8-5 lead in the top of the fifth before Levine stranded them with a groundout. Rogers cut it back to two runs with an absolutely crushed 440-footer off the top of the hill in left to get ASU back within two. To that point, Dixie State had answered each of ASU's previous scoring innings with multi-run hits of its own but Levine wasn't having it. After a leadoff chopper in the sixth, Levine calmly got Dixie to ground into a double play and added a backwards K to finally put a 0 on the board. ASU quickly went down 1-2 in the bottom of the sixth, but made Dixie State pay for hitting Sean McLain for the second time in the series as Joe Lampe sent a laser shot to right for a two-run score to even things at 8-8 and turn the tides of the game.
THE BIG MOMENT
Despite the two outs, ASU was not through with Dixie State in that sixth inning. Ethan Long and Nate Baez bookended a Conor Davis bloop single with walks to load the bases for Rogers. The freshman had struggled through the first two games but continued to show why coaches and teammates have raved about him all offseason as he muscled a grand slam into the Trailblazer bullpen for his second homer in as many innings and third extra-base hit of the day, putting the Devils up for good at 12-8.
THE FINAL STRAW
Dixie State had showed it was scrappy all weekend but the Sun Devils didn't give them a chance to claw back in the seventh. Levine retired the DSU side on 10 pitches and again ASU put together quality, patient at bats with two outs, drawing two doubles and an infield single to load the bases for Baez. The sophomore catcher blew the game open with a gapper that just cleared the wall in left center for ASU's second grand slam in as many innings and an insurmountable 17-8 advantage.
- After going 4-for-22 with two outs with no two-out RBIs in the first two games of the series, ASU posted a gaudy 16 two-out RBIs on 9-of-17 hitting with two outs on Sunday.
- On the flip side of the weekend, ASU was able to hold DSU to just 7-of-33 hitting with two outs for the series and just four two-out RBIs.
- After having to undergo Tommy John surgery after Opening Weekend last season, Boyd Vander Kooi made his return to competitive action in the ninth as he record two quick outs before handing the game off to Josh Hansell to close things out.
- Additionally making his return after missing all offseason was Jared Glenn, who pitched a 1-2-3 eighth innings with a strikeout.
Willie Bloomquist on his first career series victory…
"The bats come alive, obviously. We had a meeting about that, just on not trying to do too much. Chasing out of the zone, being willing to pass the baton to the next guy, that type of thing. We were able to string together some really good at-bats, there were some tough pitches that they laid off, and were able to extend innings, and we were finally able to get some free passes out of that because we didn't chase out of the zone, and ultimately, we put them in vulnerable situations where we were able to put up some big innings, so it was nice seeing the offense come together, I liked that, but we certainly have a lot more work to do on both sides of the ball."
Will Rogers on what was different today after struggling first two games…
"Today I just tried to focus on being a lot more in the present. I kind of danced around a bit when the music was playing, and was just trying to be where my feet are and with my teammates- that's the biggest thing. It just took away some of the nerves, going on the first two games."
Boyd Vander Kooi on his return to the mound…
"I got a little emotional. Just all of that hard work. The days of rehab that people don't see and then they come out and watch, it's pretty cool. My team had my back the entire time. It was pretty cool. They're in it with me."
Will Levine on being able to go for a longer stint after closing Friday…
"I was ready to go. Our pitching coach, Sam Peraza, wants us to be very honest with how we feel and so I made it very clear to him, and I would've been very clear to him if I wasn't going to go. But I was completely ready."
The Trailblazers got three singles in the opening frame to help plate two runs and the Devils would go down in order.
Walker settled into a groove with a 1-2-3 inning and the Devils got things rolling behind a leadoff solo shot from Conor Davis – his second of the series. The Devils would go on to mount a two-out rally capped by a Hunter Haas two-RBI double to go ahead 3-2.
Dixie came right back with a leadoff double and two-run shot to jump right back to a 4-3 advantage. The Devils had another two out rally behind two freshmen with an RBI double from Will Rogers for his first career hit followed immediately by an RBI single from Ivan Brethowr in his first collegiate appearance for the Devils to go back up 5-4.
ASU let Dixie off the hook with two unearned runs in the fourth, however, as the Trailblazers took a 6-5 advantage despite just one ball leaving the infield. ASU stranded a one-out McLain double on the base path
Control proved to be an issue with Dixie taking advantage of a couple of free passes to put another two runs on the board and stake a 8-5 advantage. Will Rogers showed off the bat everyone has talked about all season with a monstrous shot to left for his first career homer to bring ASU back within two.
Dixie State got a leadoff single that Will Levine quickly wiped off the board with a 4-6-3 double play followed by a backwards K to finally keep DSU off the board after three straight two-spots. Joe Lampe made Dixie State pay for hitting Sean McLain ahead of him with two outs, launching his second homer of the series on a laser 105 MPH shot off the bat to right to tie things at 8-8. ASU would load the bases on a pair of walks and a bloop single and Will Rogers made the Trailblazers pay with his second homer in as many innings, a grand slam to make it 12-8.
After the huge six-spot in the sixth, Will Levine did exactly what he needed with a 1-2-3 frame on a popout, groundout, strikeout combination to keep DSU from rallying. ASU mounted another two out rally behind a McLain walk, Lampe single and Long walk to load the bases for Nate Baez. Baez hit a line drive over the wall in left center for ASU's second grand slam in as many innings and effectively putting the game away at 17-8.
After missing the majority of the offseason with an injury, Jared Glenn made his 2022 debut and cooly retired the side on a strikeout and two fly outs. ASU went down in order.
In another emotional debut, Boyd Vander Kooi made his return to the mound in his first game action in 12 months after going down with Tommy John after the first week of the season last year. Vander Kooi quickly got two outs before a walk forced Bloomquist to pull him and manage his pitch count. Luke Hansell entered and after a walk, issued a game-ending groundout to seal the series victory.
The Sun Devils will have their first midweek contest of the season on Tuesday with a 6 p.m. AZT tilt against Nevada that will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks with Dominic Cotroneo on the call.