ASU Takes Opener from USC

ASU didn't have many hits on Friday night, but they made sure the few they had counted. The Sun Devils had just five hits, but took advantage of mistakes by USC and got good pitching from Seth Blair and the bullpen to knock off the Trojans, 5-4 in front of 4,279 at Packard Stadium.

"You take what the game gives you and you have to react to what the game gives you," ASU head coach Tim Esmay said. "I think we did a good job of that early."

USC (15-18, 2-8 Pac-10) took an early 1-0 lead against ASU starter Seth Blair in the first inning on back-to-back doubles by Joe DePinto and Ricky Oropesa.

"The first part of the game I might have been overthrowing a bit," Blair said. "I was driving the ball into the ground with my fastball. Once they got runners on, you have to respond right away."

After the early run, Blair did respond and settled in and didn't allow another run until the 6th inning. At one point during that stretch, the junior retired ten straight.

"I was able to start throwing my slider for a strike and that continued the rest of the game," he said. "That is why I felt I pitched pretty good tonight."

The ASU (29-3, 7-3) offense took advantage of opportunities given to them by the Trojans to take the lead in the second inning.

Riccio Torrez drew a leadoff walk from USC starter Andrew Triggs to start the inning and Matt Newman reached when Trojans' catcher Kevin Roundtree couldn't handle a dropped third strike.

Triggs walked Zach Wilson to load the bases with nobody out, but appeared to catch a huge break when Johnny Ruettiger lined a shot, but it was right at the first baseman Oropesa, who doubled Wilson off of first.

Instead of USC getting the momentum of escaping the inning with no damage, Raoul Torrez lined a single into center that scored a pair and put ASU in front 2-1.

"The biggest AB (of the game) was Raoul Torrez'," Esmay said. "(He) stays over a slider with two outs and hits the ball up the middle."

More Trojans' mistakes led to two more ASU runs in the fourth. Again it was Riccio Torrez reaching to start the inning, but this time it was on a throwing error by third baseman Matt Hart.

Triggs then walked Newman and both runners moved up on a wild pitch. That would prove costly because Wilson hit what would have been a double play ball before the wild pitch, but because the runners advanced, it allowed Torrez to score from third.

Ruettiger made it 4-1 with a base hit to right that scored Newman.

The Sun Devils added another run in the fifth inning when Kole Calhoun connected for a solo blast to right center that would turn into the game winning run.

USC finally got something going against Blair in the sixth inning and again it was the duo of DePinto and Oropesa.

Both singled to start the sixth and moved up on a passed ball by ASU catcher Austin Barnes. That allowed DePinto to score on a groundout by Matt Foat and Oropesa to score on an error by Drew Maggi.

The Trojans cut it to a 5-4 ballgame in the seventh inning against Blair. Roundtree led off with a single and stole second base.

Blair got the next two outs, but gave up a hit to DePinto that scored Roundtree and ended his day. With the lefty Oropesa coming up, Esmay handed the ball off to lefty Mitchell Lambson, who struck out Oropesa to end the inning.

Lambson stranded the tying run at second base in the eighth after allowing a leadoff walk and Esmay allowed him to come back out to start the ninth because of the left handed hitters in the USC lineup.

He again walked the leadoff hitter and USC elected to sacrifice pinch runner Alex Glenn up to second. Lambson got Mike O'Neill to pop out for the second out, before Esmay decided to go to closer Jordan Swagerty with the red hot DePinto awaiting.

Swagerty made quick work of DePinto, fanning him on four pitches to pick up his ninth save of the season.

"It set up in the ninth that we were going to send Mitchell back out there," Esmay said. "Then with De Pinto coming up it was set up to bring Swags in to finish out the ballgame."

Blair worked 6 2/3 innings and allowed three earned runs to pick up his sixth win of the season. The righty didn't walk a batter and struck out seven.

Lambson didn't allow a hit in his two scoreless innings of relief. It was a nice bounce back for him, after a bump in the road last weekend.

"There is not a day that Mitchell doesn't show up ready to pitch," Esmay said. "Now you get to see how they respond and you saw tonight he was ready to go and made some really big pitches in crucial situations."

After going 4-5 last Sunday and launching his fourth home run on Friday, it looks as if Calhoun may be hitting his groove at the plate.

"I am kind of a slow starter, but now we are in the second half of the season and I don't have any more excuses, I have to start hitting now," Calhoun said. "I don't know what it is. I always just tend to do better in the second half."

Esmay thinks that this is about the time when his senior captain will start to get hot, just like last season.

"If you watch his AB's the last two weekends, they have been barreled up," he said. "He is really starting to turn around. He really knows how to control himself and handle this game; he is always a swing away from getting it rolling again."

Ruettiger finished with two of ASU's five hits. The Sun Devils scored five runs on five hits, when in their previous game they plated five runs on 14 hits.

"The game is so interesting and so funny," Esmay said. "You never know when you are going to get those runs and you have to be locked into every opportunity you can get them."

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