A tumultuous week for Arizona State that resulted in five players leaving the program didn’t produce much better results on the field, as the Sun Devils lost two out of three games to the Stanford Cardinal.
Stanford (30-13, 13-8 Pac-12) had its 11-game win streak snapped, while ASU (20-24, 7-14 Pac-12) broke out of a four-game slide on Sunday. It was the fourth time this season that the Sun Devils endured a losing streak of at least four straight games.
Friday: Stanford 7, Arizona State 5
Despite scoring in five separate innings, ASU came up short in the opening game of the series after digging itself into an early hole that it was unable to climb out of.
Senior Eder Erives started for the Sun Devils and was unable to make it out of the second inning, giving up four hits, two walks, and two runs.
Head coach Tracy Smith said that Erives’ early exit was due to falling behind in the count in a plethora of at-bats.
“I remember there was a significant amount of three-ball counts, pitching behind the whole time, they were making solid contact even when he was ahead,” Smith said. “I just thought, in that situation, with their pitching the way it’s been, we can’t let them get a lot of runs.”
A trio of pitchers relieved Erives, but it was junior Ryan Hingst who did the heavy lifting, eating six innings. Although Hingst wasn’t his sharpest, giving up three earned runs, he provided a lift to the rest of the bullpen.
The Sun Devils’ offense was able to keep them in the game for most of the evening, as ASU repeatedly battled back from deficits.
Junior Andrew Shaps, playing in what would turn out to be his final game as a Sun Devil, reached in all five of his plate appearances. Shaps walked twice and had three hits, including his fifth home run of the season.
Shaps' home run came in the eighth inning after he took advantage of the scouting report for Stanford reliever Tyler Thorne.
“I figured he was going slider mainly to righties,” Shaps said. “I was sitting changeup on that pitch, because he threw a slider before and hadn’t thrown many fastballs.”
Junior Taylor Lane and sophomores Gage Canning and Tyler Williams all had two hits and a run batted in, respectively.
“It’s disappointing when you outhit somebody, get 14 hits and still lose,” Smith said. “That shouldn’t happen and I hope moving forward it won’t happen. You can’t fault the effort and I know everybody is certainly trying, we just didn’t execute when we needed to execute on the field.”
Saturday: Stanford 13, Arizona State 8
Once again, the Sun Devils dug themselves into a deep hole that decided the game very early on.
The Cardinal followed up a three-run first inning with five runs in the following frame, knocking junior Eli Lingos out of the game. Sophomores Duke Kinamon and Brandon Wulff each homered off of Lingos in the early going.
Smith didn’t think the early struggles had to do with the departures of Shaps and junior Ryan Lillard, which had taken place earlier in the day.
“I would assume a lot of these guys are going to play professional baseball someday,” Smith said. “They will have friends that are traded, friends that get released or whatever. You have to be professional enough to put that stuff behind you and still go out. You owe it to yourself, you owe it to your teammates, you owe it to the institution. Control what you can control and play hard every day.”
For the most part, the early damage was limited by the Sun Devils’ bullpen.
Redshirt sophomore Reagan Todd gave up three earned runs in four innings, and his ability to accumulate innings eased the strain on the rest of the bullpen.
By the time ASU’s offense got rolling, Stanford had already built an 11-0 lead, and the Sun Devils’ efforts were simply too little, too late.
Canning and freshman Lyle Lin each homered as part of the five runs ASU scored off of junior Andrew Summerville, Stanford’s starting pitcher.
According to Lane, Stanford’s early lead didn’t crush the Sun Devils’ spirits.
“We’re still in the baseball game I feel like, with any score on the board,” Lane said. “You want to come back and win the ballgame. You don’t want to give up, no matter what the circumstances, but we just want to keep playing.”
Freshman Hunter Bishop’s two-run single and a wild pitch cut the deficit to four runs and made it interesting, but ASU ran out of answers in the ninth inning.
“It’s a positive that the guys didn’t quit,” Smith said. “We got off to a rough start there. We didn’t push that other run in during the bottom of the eighth. It would have been nice to only be down three. A loss is a loss no matter how you slice it, but the good part about that is the guys kept going.”
Sunday: Arizona State 9, Stanford 6
A hot start on offense and a lengthy outing from sophomore Connor Higgins keyed the win for the Sun Devils in the series finale.
Higgins entered the game in relief of freshman Spencer Van Scoyoc in the second inning and threw the final 7 and 2/3 innings, giving just one earned run and getting stronger as his outing progressed.
“He’s (Higgins) a big boy and a starter in the past, but he was still throwing the ball well, holding his velocity, and mechanically sound,” Smith said. “He felt good and gave us what we needed today.
Van Scoyoc was making his first start in over a month and was plagued by similar control issues that he had previously faced. He allowed four walks and a hit by pitch to the nine hitters that he faced.
Even after a five-run run first inning gave him a comfortable cushion, Van Scoyoc and the ASU defense let the Cardinal tie the game in the following inning.
However, the Sun Devils took the lead for good with three runs in the bottom of the third. The go-ahead hit was delivered by senior Zach Cerbo on a two-run single that plated Lin and Bishop.
Cerbo was slotted at designated hitter, while Lin was inserted at catcher for Sunday’s series finale.
“I joked with him (Cerbo) before and said ‘We’re putting the old man in at DH, now maybe those hands will fly through the zone a little quicker,” Smith said. “I guess he answered with 3-for-4 and four RBIs.”
Ironically enough, the team’s hottest hitter, sophomore Gage Canning, was the only member of the lineup that did not have either a hit or a run batted in.
After ASU took an 8-5 lead, only two more runs were scored the rest of the game, one by each team, as Stanford only had one hit in the final four innings.
Amidst all the troubles from earlier in the week, the Sunday win was a welcoming sign for a Sun Devils team that has fallen out of playoff contention, but has the time and resources to experiment with some different mixes of players.
“If you have the opportunity to wear this uniform, you better take advantage of it,” Smith said. “We’re going to look at some different lineups and some different combinations and maybe get some guys some at-bats and move them around where we project they are going to play down the stretch, just from a developmental standpoint.”
What’s Next: The Sun Devils hit the road over the next week, facing in-state rival Arizona for the second midweek matchup between the teams before traveling to Washington to play the Huskies in a three-game series.