ASU baseball secured its first series win in nearly a month taking two of three in Salt Lake City against Utah to improve to 30-8 (12-6 Pac-12).
This weekend, Arizona State won its series two games to one, but still allowed 4-14 Utah to take a victory away on Saturday 6-3.
ASU is in the midst of an opportunistic stretch with Utah, UNLV and Washington, before a difficult few series to end the regular season.
The Sun Devils are still in the running to host a regional for the first time since 2011, the last time it reached the super regionals. They needed to take advantage against the Utes, but Saturday’s loss was a tough one for their perception.
Eating innings during the third games of series was going to be a challenge with R.J. Dabovich’s injury. The bullpen had already been seemingly shrinking with pitchers struggling.
Last weekend, head coach Tracy Smith went with veteran Sam Romero on Sunday against Oregon State. He wasn’t dealing, but was effective enough to keep ASU in the game. This week, Smith went with Luke La Flam for his first career start.
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The freshman was hit hard, allowing four runs on eight hits in three innings. Romero had tossed just 13 pitches in game one of the series, so it is a wonder why he wasn’t given the ball at all on Saturday.
That 4-0 hole was too deep to dig out of, as the offense went stagnant for most of the game. Trevor Hauver was the only Sun Devil with multiple hits and the only one with a knock until the seventh inning.
Despite the rough ending, ASU still won the series to improve to 30-8 on the year, 12-6 in conference. The Utes didn’t make it easy on the Sun Devils, though, largely due to their ability to rough up ASU’s pen.
Alec Marsh was sensational once again in game one with seven innings of work and one earned run, but Arizona State blew its 4-2 lead in the ninth. The Sun Devils did not get a hit during the first two extra innings, but they got the spark they needed in the bottom of the 11th.
Right fielder Carter Aldrete made a diving catch with two runners on to save the game, and ASU responded by scoring seven runs in the 12th. The surge was capped off by Spencer Torkelson’s 12th home run of the season. 11-6 was the final score.
In game two, Boyd Vander Kooi tossed his first career complete game, albeit with four earned runs. Still, he prevented the need for the bullpen in a game when the offense took over.
ASU won 8-5 with big performances from the bottom of the order. Gage Workman and Drew Swift combined for five hits, three RBIs and three runs from the eight-nine spots. Them getting on base led to RBI situations Hauver and Torkelson, who drove in three runs of their own.
Baseball seasons are long and hiccups happen, but ASU’s lack of depth on the mound was obvious in game three, a worrisome sight for the rest of the season.
Another injury to a key arm would be devastating, which is why Smith may feel like spacing out his hurlers to preserve them for the postseason, as opposed to pressing them for a potential regional host bid.
His strategy will be apparent in how he handles Sunday starts and the bullpen leading into the postseason.