The No. 21 ASU baseball team rode dominant pitching by junior Alex Blackford and a clutch home run by junior second baseman Joey DeMichele to a 3–1 victory over unranked New Mexico on Tuesday night.
“(Tuesday) was a huge pick me up — not only for us, but for (Blackford),” ASU coach Tim Esmay told KDUS “The Fan” 1060 after the game. “He’s kind of been scrambling a little bit in the last couple outings, and today was the Alex Blackford of old. He was getting his breaking ball and his change-up over (the plate), and he did a great job of keeping them off-balanced.”
Blackford’s (1-2, 5.23 ERA) lone blemish at Isotopes Park in Albuquerque came by way of an RBI sacrifice fly by Lobos shortstop Alex Allbritton that gave the home team a 1–0 lead in the fifth. Aside from that, New Mexico was stumped by the right-hander, who surrendered just one earned run on three hits through six innings.
ASU (20-13, 6-6 Pac-12) responded quickly to the one-run deficit, as DeMichele bounced back from his two-error performance last night to give the Sun Devils a 2–1 lead by way of a two-out, two-run dinger to left field in the sixth.
“We’re a young team trying to play on the road, and we’re on the road a lot more this year than we have been in the past,” Esmay said. “You’re starting to see signs of guys starting to handle the game and the whole nine yards.”
In the ninth, ASU tacked on another insurance run after sophomore left fielder James McDonald walked and advanced to third on sophomore catcher Beau Maggi’s double. McDonald finally scored on a wild pitch to make it a 3–1 Sun Devil advantage.
“(Tuesday) was a biggie for us,” Esmay said. “It was something where we needed to play well. We needed to pitch well. We needed to do some things well to get on that plane tomorrow and get ready for a big series this weekend against USC.”
The ASU pitching staff, which was bombarded in the first game of the series, had things locked down in this contest. After Blackford was pulled to start the seventh, senior Joseph Lopez, junior Matthew Dunbar, junior Robert Ravago and junior Jake Barrett did not yield a hit en route to the victory. Barrett was credited with his sixth save of the year.
Esmay put the performance of his bullpen in simple terms: “They executed.”
The win earned ASU a split in their two-game set with the Lobos. The Sun Devils return to action at Packard Stadium on Friday for a three-game series against Pac-12 foe USC.
“It’s a great bounce-back (win) for us,” Esmay said. “We pitched better today, we played better defense, all those things that we need to do.”
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