Baseball Unable to Overcome Early Deficit in Loss to Cal
PHOENIX – Sun Devil Baseball rallied and put up a crooked number on the box score in the ninth inning, but came up short against Cal, evening the series at one a piece with a final of 14-7.
The pitching staff could never establish a rhythm, as the Cal offense was locked in early. The offense came alive in the ninth inning, providing momentum heading into tomorrow's contest.
Kai Murphy had a second consecutive three-hit day, recording his first homer of the year on a three-run shot in the ninth and finishing with four RBIs on the day. Ryan Campos added two hits and an RBI of his own.
But the Sun Devil pitchers walked 11 Cal batters, despite the team's 10 strikeouts, while the offense struck out 11 times to just two walks - rarely a recipe for success.
The Sun Devils faced an early blow, with two-runs being posted in the first. It all started with two California leadoff walks, both coming home as a result of a single later in the inning. While two runs is not a feat, the walks and free passes were an early indication of what the Sun Devils would be in for. The Golden Bears did not relent in their approach at the plate, taking advantage of a bullpen day for Arizona State.
THE BIG MOMENT
The Sun Devils were able to generate a promising rally in the fourth inning, starting with a single off of Conor Davis' bat. After the next two batters were retired, Nate Baez started a two-out rally for ASU with his RBI single into center field. A double into the right field line from Kai Murphy would extend the two out rally, putting runners at second and third with two outs for the Sun Devils in search of another two-out rally in the series. This brought up Alex Champagne in an important situation. He put together a great at bat, fouling off several pitches before eventually getting caught looking on a borderline pitch as Cal avoided allowing a big inning.
THE FINAL STRAW
Despite the early California runs, Arizona State stayed within reaching distance. Blake Pivaroff relieved Will Levine, giving up a double to his first batter faced. This runner was erased, but a single put another runner on base. With two outs, it looked as if the Sun Devils might get out of the inning trailing 5-2. That was until a two-strike, two-out, two-run home run for Carson Crawford - the Cal nine-hole hitter - sucked any momentum away from ASU as the offense would go cold after that moment.
- The Sun Devil offense broke out with five runs in the ninth inning, the seventh time they have scored five or more runs in an inning this season.
- Kai Murphy enjoyed another impressive day at the plate, finishing 3-for-4 with an RBI single in the second inning.
- Murphy is now 6-for-8 in the series against Cal and now has a hit in each of his last four games against the Golden Bears.
- He came into the game with four RBI's and drove in four runs tonight alone, a career-high for Murphy.
- Five of Arizona State's eight runs last night came with two outs in the inning.
- Tonight three of seven runs were scored with two outs, as ASU continued their effective two-out hitting.
- Nate Baez extended his hit streak to six games with a RBI single in the fourth inning.
- He now has at least one hit in seven of his last eight games.
- Connor Davis also extended his hit streak to six games and now has at least a hit in eight of his last nine games.
- The Sun Devils avoided committing an error for the 14th time this year.
- Infielder Cam Magee recorded his first hit after coming in as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning.
- Arizona State got a great effort from some unsung heroes in the backend of the bullpen, saving some arms for the series finale.
- Blake Pivaroff, Luke Laflam, and Andrew Lucas combined to pitch 4.0 innings, allowing only two runs and striking out five.
Jared Glenn found himself in trouble early when he issued back-to-back walks to start the game. The early pressure magnified when a pitch got past catcher, Nate Baez, put the runners at second and third. The Sun Devils were finally able to get an out on a routine grounder to Sean McLain, but also gave California their first run of the game. The Bears got their second run on a single through the left. Glenn would prevent any further damage, getting the next two batters to fly out.
The one, two and three hitters for the Sun Devils were unable to get any back, as a ground out for Joe Lampe and a pair of strikeouts for Jacob Tobias and Ethan Long closed the first.
Glenn gave up a leadoff walk and followed with a hit batter which ended his night. Will Levine went in to relieve him and was able to strand them, with a pair of strikeouts sandwiching a flyout. ASU led off the inning with Conor Davis who just missed a homerun on the first pitch he saw, but Sean McLain was able to get on the basepaths with a four pitch walk. Ryan Campos followed with a single of his own into the right side to move McLain over to third. Following a Nate Baez pop up, Kai Muprhy picked up his teammate with a liner into center, putting ASU on the board and cutting the deficit down to two.
The first hitter Levine faced in the third slashed a ball past a diving Champagne to get on board. The next batter dug the Sun Devils into a deeper hole as his two-run homer made the game 5-1. With one out as a result of a groundout, Levine was able to get another ball to stay in the infield, but the difficult bounce allowed the runner to beat McLain's throw. Levine struck out his third batter of the night, and got the third out himself, gathering a dribbler by the right foul line and beating the runner to first.
The top of the order returned to get their second at bats, but were unable to tack on any runs with a pop up to second, groundout to shortstop, and fly out to right ending the third.
Champagne reached for a grounder, spinning and throwing across, but the batter just beat out the throw and put the leadoff man on for the Bears once again. A fielder's choice to shortstop got the lead runner out at second, but the runner would reach. A flyout that landed in Murphy's glove and a strikeout ended the inning for the Bears, the first scoreless frame of the game. Davis led things off with a single through the left side to get the leadoff man on for the Sun Devils. Two quick outs were followed by another two out rally for ASU, as Baez smoked a RBI single into center field, bringing in another run. Murphy laced one down the right field line for a double for his second hit of the night, but the inning ended with a strikeout.
Two-way player Blake Pivaroff replaced Will Levine on the mound, making his fourth appearance on the mound. A double kicked off the inning, but was erased from the base path, as Nate Baez caught the runner stealing third. A single to center was able to move to third without any teammate intervention, as a pass ball and wild pitch did all the work to put him within 90 feet. Pivaroff secured a strikeout for the second out, but a home run to right would make the Sun Devils' road to contention in the game more difficult. A ground out to McLain ended the top of the fifth. ASU went down in order in the home half of the fifth.
A pop up off the end of the bat to McLain started the inning for the Bears, but a single into right field would put a runner on for Cal. However, a strikeout 'em out throw 'em out double play would end the inning, as Baez caught another runner stealing. The Arizona State bats once again went down in order.
Neither side put runs on the board in the seventh. A single to right for California would be the only hit of the inning. Pivaroff got a strikeout, then exited the game to make way for Luke La Flam. La Flam sat down both of his hitters, with a fly out to right and a swinging strikeout. The Sun Devils were still unable to crack Cal's starter Joseph King, as he finished his outing with another zero.
Cal made some noise and tried threatening the Sun Devils with back-to-back no-out walks, but right-hander Andrew Lucas was able to work around the trouble. The top of the lineup went down quietly for the Sun Devils, setting up for an action-packed ninth inning.
Both bullpens faced challenges in the ninth. Twelve runs in total were tallied, with the Sun Devils seeing a scoreline of 14-2 as they went up to bat for a final time. They showed fight in front of the home crowd, forcing Cal to use a pair of pitchers with the game out of reach. Ivan Brethowr, pinch hitting for Conor Davis, led off the inning with a single. Sean McLain added a single of his own, with Ryan Campos bringing Brethowr home on a double to left. Kai Murphy brought home the two on base and himself, with a three-run home run to give the Sun Devils some momentum heading into the next game.
Arizona State finishes up the series tomorrow when they take on Cal at 12:30 pm MST. Catch the game on the ASU Live Stream and follow with live stats.