Marrero Fills In to Help ASU win 30th

Early on Saturday, ASU head coach Tim Esmay learned that his star second baseman Zack MacPhee would be unable to play against USC because of a stomach bug. The Sun Devils didn't miss a beat. Freshman Deven Marrero filled in off the bench with two hits and had a stellar defensive game that aided ASU to a 5-3 victory in front of a sold out Packard Stadium.

The win was ASU's 30th on the season, giving them 48 straight seasons with 30 or more wins.

"The beauty about here is when you get your call, you go play," Esmay said. "That is what Deven did and that is what I expect."

Marrero normally plays shortstop when he gets his playing time and he feels that making the shift to second base is easier than a second baseman making the shift to short.

"Second base comes natural to me because when you play shortstop for a long time, you can go to that easier," Marrero said. "You can sit back a little more and be patient. I have been everywhere on the infield my whole life."

He also sparked ASU's rally right away in the first inning against USC starter Ben Mount. His single started a string of three straight base hits that put the Sun Devils up 1-0.

Johnny Ruettiger and Matt Newman added singles later in the inning and ASU had a 3-0 lead.

Mount settled in after that and the Sun Devils (30-3, 8-3 Pac-10) didn't score again until the sixth inning. That was good enough for ASU starter Merrill Kelly.

Kelly shut the Trojans (15-19, 2-9) down for the first four innings before a bit of bad luck struck him in the fifth inning.

Ashton Kent and Kevin Roundtree both reached on soft singles and were sacrificed up to second and third by Adam Landecker. Joe DePinto then drove both runners in with a soft chopper that got over the head of third baseman Raoul Torrez.

Without hitting the ball hard, USC cut ASU's lead to 3-2.

"I felt like I pitched pretty well," Kelly said. "They gave me some support in the beginning and it kind of fell off a bit. I trust my offense like no other and I had to battle through this one."

In the sixth inning, USC got a leadoff single, but that threat was quickly extinguished by an excellent defensive play by Marrero.

Alex Sherrod hit a groundball to Marrero, who had to field the ball in the running lane of Matt Foat. He calmly fielded it, tagged Foat and then set his feet to throw to first for the double play.

"One of the biggest plays of the game was the chopper that came in the line of the runner," Esmay said. "If you have played second base before, that might be one of the toughest plays to make. That was a big time play."

ASU got a run in the sixth inning to make it a 4-2 ballgame thanks to back-to-back doubles by Jordan Swagerty and Raoul Torrez.

Kent lined a solo home run to left to cut the ASU lead to 4-3 and Roundtree followed with a base hit and Kelly walked Landecker to put two on with one out.

That is when Esmay went to his bullpen and freshman Brady Rodgers to face the red-hot DePinto. The runners advanced to second and third on a passed ball, but Rodgers fanned DePinto for the second out.

Esmay then played the matchups again and went to lefty Jimmy Patterson to face left handed slugger Ricky Oropesa.

That is when Marrero stole the show again.

Oropesa hit a tough chopper to Marrero and the freshman played the hop flawlessly and got ASU out of the inning.

"The play he made on Oropesa, where he came in on that ball and got that short hop, that was a shortstop playing second right there," Esmay said. "He made some big time plays out there at second base tonight."

The Sun Devils got a run back thanks to a Trojans' error and some hustle on the base paths. With two outs in the seventh, Riccio Torrez hustled down the line and forced an errant throw from the second baseman Kent.

Torrez then read the downward angle on a ball in the dirt well and advanced to second base. Zach Wilson followed with a ball hit back up the middle that Kent fielded but threw late to first base and in the mean time, Torrez streaked around third and scored.

"That is just good, hard-nosed baseball and a good job by (third base coach) Mike Benjamin to send him." Esmay said.

Mitchell Lambson pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning and for the second straight game, he was allowed to come back out for the ninth.

He caught the first two batters of the inning for looking strikeouts before pinch hitter Keith Castillo got him for a base hit.

Again for the second straight night, Esmay then gave the ball to closer Jordan Swagerty for the one out save and he needed just two pitches to record the final out and pick up his 10th save.

"It is a luxury," Esmay said of his deep bullpen being able to allow him to play matchups. "Not too often in college baseball do you have that luxury. It is really nice to have. When you have that trust in these guys, it makes it easy not to second guess. It is total conviction."

Kelly worked 6 1/3 innings and allowed three runs to pick up his NCAA leading 8th win of the season. For Kelly, the decision to transfer to ASU from junior college has really paid off.

"I didn't know what to expect, to be honest. It is a new stage and completely new environment for me with a new level of competition," Kelly said. "I really didn't know what to expect, I am just enjoying the ride right now."

Every ASU hitter had at least one hit, but it was Marrero's defensive performance that was more valuable than even his two hits at the plate.

"When you get the opportunity, especially on a club like this, you have to make the most of it," Marrero said. "When my name is called, I go out there and try to do my best. I'm just trying to do my job, I'm no MacPhee but I can try and get it done for him."

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