ASU Sweeps Tigers With Sunday Victory

Arizona State relievers pitched five innings and allowed just four hits and no runs in the victory over Auburn.

Tempe, Ariz.--Auburn got a solid pitching performance from freshmen Evan Crawford and Luke Greinke, but it wasn't enough to overcome a sluggish offense as the Tigers (8-8) fell to Arizona State 8-1 to complete the three-game sweep for the Sun Devils (14-5).

In his first career road start Crawford did a good job against a very explosive Arizona State offense. Allowing three earned runs in four innings he kept the Tigers in the game and the same is true of Greinke. In his longest outing of the season Greinke gave up three runs in three and one/third innings. Coach Tommy Slater said that the Tigers played well on Sunday but just couldn't finish when the opportunities presented themselves.

"I thought our kids competed and played hard," Slater said. "I was proud of the way our team came out today. Evan did a great job. Greinke did a tremendous job of keeping us in the game. I'm very proud of both of those kids and their pitching performances. I'm thrilled for Ted Bryant to come in there and get a big strikeout for us in the eighth inning. I'm just proud of the way our guys competed today."

The Sun Devils got on the board first in the third inning thanks to the talents of starting pitcher Ike Davis. Controlling the Tigers from the mound, he singled with two outs in the inning to score Colin Curtis from second just ahead of a throw from Russell Dixon in right field. Curtis reached on a single earlier in the inning.

Auburn's Jeff Boutwell rips a second-inning double.

Arizona State extended the lead in the fourth off Crawford as C.J. Retherford led off the inning with a double down the left field line. After advancing to third on balk by Crawford, Retherford scored easily on a single to center by catcher Preston Paramore. That was just the beginning as shortstop Matt Hall ripped a first-pitch fastball into the gap in left-center for a triple that scored Paramore and put Arizona State up 3-0.

Things could have been worse for the Tigers, but Crawford got Joe Persichina to pop up to Andy Bennett for the first out of the inning. J.J. Sferra then hit a ground ball to Phillip Stringer at shortstop with the infield in. Breaking from third, Hall was easily out at the plate for the second out of the inning. A groundout by Ryan Sontag put an end to the ASU rally with the Sun Devils leading 3-0.

Auburn finally got something going offensively in the fifth as freshman designated hitter Justin Bristow led off the inning with a single to left and advanced to second when shortstop Phillip Stringer singled. With center fielder Bruce Edwards at the plate Arizona State's pitcher balked to move the runners into scoring position. Edwards couldn't deliver though as he struck out to bring Tyler Johnstone to the plate.

Already with one hit on the day to bring his on-base streak to 26 games, Johnstone delivered with a hard single to right field that scored Bristow from third and pushed Stringer to third. That would be it for the Tigers though as Russell Dixon struck out for the second out of the inning. Following a walk to Josh Donaldson to load the bases, Bennett ground out to Hall at short to end the Auburn threat.

Arizona State added single runs in the fourth and fifth to take a 5-1 advantage, but the Auburn offense kept the pressure on with baserunners in every inning but the first. That continued as the Tigers made some noise in the top of the eighth as Bennett was hit by a pitch with one out in the inning and Jeff Boutwell hit a deep fly ball to the base of the wall in center field for out two. Mike Bianucci followed with a single to bring Bristow to the plate. Facing ASU's closer the freshman went down on strikes to end the threat.

The Sun Devils extended their lead in the bottom of the inning thanks to some help from the Tigers. With Greinke starting to run out of gas Hall led off the frame with a single to left. A fielder's choice from the bat of Persichina retired Hall at second and Sferra singled to right to put runners on the corners with one out.

That would be it for Greinke as Johnny Thompson came on in relief, but didn't fare well at all as Sontag reached on an infield single and advanced to second on a Johnstone error. The play scored Persichina and moved Sferra to third. A passed ball then scored Sferra to push the lead to 7-1. A sacrifice fly off the bat of Curtis scored Sontag to give the Sun Devils a seven-run lead. Junior reliever Ted Bryant finished off the inning with a strikeout of pinch-hitter Brett Wallace, but the damage was done.

Auburn failed to threaten in the ninth as Arizona State went on to the 8-1 victory. Johnstone and Bianucci led the way at the plate for the Tigers with two hits each while Bristow added a single and the only run of the game. For ASU Davis, Hall and Sferra all had two hits as the Sun Devils totaled 11 on the day.

The Tigers return to action next Friday night at seven when they take on the Birmingham-Southern Panthers at Plainsman Park in the first of three games. Auburn will be looking to get back on the winning track after dropping its last two series.

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