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Sun Devil Baseball Drops Extra-Inning Heartbreaker at UCI

Mar 10, 2022

IRVINE, Calif. - Sun Devil Baseball returned to Cicerone Field to finish up the series against the UCI Anteaters in what would be a rare midweek pitcher's duel, with Arizona State ultimately falling in 12 innings in a heartbreaking 3-2 walk-off decision. 
 
Arizona State's starting pitcher, right-hander Jacob Walker, tossed 6.1 innings in his longest appearance for the Sun Devils this season. Although Walker had a rocky first two innings, he settled in on the mound and pitched extremely effectively with just two runs allowed on six hits with three strikeouts and no walks. 
 
The defense behind Walker made a slew of incredible plays throughout the night, keeping the Sun Devils on pace with the Anteaters despite the offense managing just five hits in 12 innings.
 
ASU stranded 11 Anteater baserunners and made several clutch defense plays down the stretch, but in a game of inches, the bounces went UCI's way in the end with ASU coming just short on a couple of diving efforts and the eventual play at the plate on the walk-off run while offensively lining out directly to defenders throughout the night or falling victim to exceptional diving efforts by the Anteaters infield. 
Turning Point
ASU got a leadoff baserunner in the top of the ninth with the score tied at 2-2, but popped out on a sacrifice bunt attempt and then ran itself out of the inning on a strike 'em out, throw 'em out combination. That seemed to put ASU on its heels, despite its ability to lengthen the game to 12 innings as the team struggled to put much pressure on the Irvine pitchers.
The Big Moment
All night, ASU struggled to get the bounces to go its way - be it Irvine hits being just out of reach of diving Sun Devils or a freshman making his first ever start at third base and being tasked with several difficult plays where his throws were just off the mark at first. On the flip side, ASU made hard contact through the night, it just always happened to be directly at a Irvine defender while the balls that eluded diving Sun Devils seemed to find their way into the gloves on the Anteater ones on the flip side. This came to a heel in the top of the 12th with two outs and Kai Murphy taking second on a wild pitch to Will Rogers. Rogers worked a masterful at-bat, working the count full and fouling off six pitches in a battle to try and bring the run across. Rogers put a barrel on the 10th pitch on the at-bat, a ball that was absolutely laced to the right side of the infield - and directly into the glove of the second baseman for the final out of the top of the frame and giving UCI the chance to walk it off in the bottom half.
The Final Straw
After fending off several UCI advances just to force extra innings and keep the game going, the Anteaters finally broke through against the Devils in the bottom of the 12th. A leadoff single and sac bunt put the game-winning run in scoring position. ASU would intentionally walk a batter to the free base and UCI responded with a double-steal attempt, though Nate Baez hosed the lead runner at third as Cam Magee got the tag down when the runner slid off the bag, getting the lead runner and the second out. Immediately after, catcher Bam Garcia-Pacheco singled to center field to set up another play at the plate. Joe Lampe made a masterful throw home but Baez was ultimately unable to hold on to the ball and make the tag, bringing the close game to an end with a 3-2 win for the Anteaters.
Notables

  • The Sun Devils were without the efforts of Ethan Long, who sat out the game with back tightness - though he could be seen prowling the dugout at the end of the game looking for an opportunity to pinch hit.
  • On the flip side, Hunter Haas showed he was willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win. Despite only being in about the second week of a 4-6 week absence due to a rotator cuff tear, Haas came in to pinch run on Wednesday and was also seen with a bat in his hand ready to take some hacks if he needed to.
  • This was the first game this season that ASU did not have a double after entering the contest in the Top-15 nationally in total doubles.
  • ASU's three-game losing streak is painstaking in that all three games have come by one run. Seven of ASU's nine losses this year have come by one or two runs. 

Inning-by-Inning
 
First
The Sun Devils had an uneventful first inning at the plate, with right-handed pitcher Cameron Wheeler retiring ASU in order. In the bottom half of the inning, Jacob Walker started off with some trouble after the Anteaters led off with back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners. He was able to quickly work around it by getting a double play - through the run scored - and finished the inning without further damage, leaving the score 1-0 in favor of the Anteaters.
 
Second
The Sun Devils returned to the plate stronger. with a leadoff single by Jacob Tobias. Shortly after, the Sun Devils were able to capitalize off a pair of errors from the UCI shortstop to even the score at 1-1. The Anteaters put runners on the corners with a pair of singles for the second time tonight, but Sean McLain saved a run with a phenomenal play across his body to secure the third out and prevent UCI from scoring. Cam Magee also made a nice play in the inning, grabbing the ricochet off Walker and making the play at first while Alex Champagne snagged his second lineout of the game. 
 
Third
Similar to the first inning, the Sun Devils were ultimately unable to get on base, with Wheeler retiring ASU in order.  Walker started to settle in on the pitcher's mound and continued his success into this inning, keeping the Anteaters from scoring another run with his first 1-2-3 inning of the evening and first strikeout.
 
Fourth
UCI shortstop Woody Hadeen made a pair of nice plays at second and the Sun Devils went down in order again. Back on the mound, Walker kept UCI's at-bats brief with the score remaining at 1-1, stranding a one-out error thanks to a great play against the backstop by catcher Nate Baez.
 
Fifth
Cameron Wheeler kept ASU's at-bat brief, rounding out the top of the fifth with another scoreless inning for the Sun Devils. Walker returned to the mound and kept the Anteaters from scoring for the fourth consecutive inning and it became his longest pitching appearance for the Sun Devils this season in the process.
 
Sixth
ASU finally had an answer after UCI starter Cameron Wheeler had retired 11 straight. Back-to-back singles from McLain and Davis put runners on the corners with one out. Jacob Tobias laced a pitch to the warning track in right field, which might have been a homer at a lot of ballparks, but was still good enough for a sacrifice fly for McLain to score and make it 2-1, Devils. Stops after scores are a big thing in football, and Jacob Walker responded with one of his own in the bottom half of the inning, retiring the side in order - including a pair of backward Ks.
 
Seventh
After six innings, UCI pulled from their bullpen for the first time, swapping Wheeler for sophomore Tanner Brooks. This was Brooks' first appearance on the pitcher's mound for the 2022 season and he kept the Sun Devils from building on their 2-1 lead. It was an inning of mere inches in the bottom half of the frame as UCI recorded four straight hits that were just barely out of reach of diving Devils, allowing UCI to tie the game at 2-2. With the bases loaded and just one out, the Sun Devils eventually turned to right-hander Chase Webster. Webster got a pair of gut-check strikeouts against the top of the UCI order to keep the game tied at 2-2. 
 
Eighth
Senior Gordon Ingebritson was brought on to the pitcher's mound and put up a 1-2-3 frame. Chase Webster returned for the Sun Devils and delivered another scoreless  inning for the Anteaters, keeping the score 2-2.
 
Ninth
The Sun Devils had a golden opportunity with a leadoff hit-by-pitch but popped out on a sac bunt and ended the inning on a strike 'em out, throw 'em out combination. UC Irvine had a chance to walk it off with a pair of runners on with one out and a single to left field but Will Rogers hosed down the runner at the plate to keep it a tie game. Will Levine came into the game and got a huge strikeout to send the game to extra innings. 
 
Tenth
It was a quick frame as both sides went down in order. The Devils went down in order and Levine stranded on two outs.
 
Eleventh
The Devils were brought down in order again, capping the inning with a great diving play by UCI's Justin Torres at second base. Levine stranded a one-out bunt single with another strikeout. 
 
Twelfth
ASU got a one-out single from Baez, who would be replaced at first on a fielder's choice by Kai Murphy. Murphy took second on a masterful at-bat from Will Rogers, who fouled off six pitches in a 10-pitch at-bat before lacing a ball - again directly at the second baseman for the inning-ending out. 
 
A leadoff single and sac bunt put the game-winning run in scoring position. ASU would intentionally walk a batter to the free base and UCI responded with a double-steal attempt, though Nate Baez hosed the lead runner at third as Cam Magee got the tag down when the runner slid off the bag, getting the lead runner and the second out. Immediately after, catch Bam Garcia-Pacheco singled to center field to set up another play at the plate. Joe Lampe made a masterful throw home but Baez was ultimately unable to hold on to the ball and make the tag, bringing the close game to an end with a 3-2 win for the Anteaters.
 
On Deck: The Sun Devils will return to Phoenix for a four-game series against the University of San Francisco. The first game is on March 11 at 6:30 p.m. AZT at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.