IRVINE, Calif.– This week has not been kind to ASU baseball, and UC Irvine was there to capitalize on the Sun Devils’ misfortune.
ASU lost Tuesday at home to New Mexico and Friday in Long Beach, Calif. and headed to Irvine, Calif. Saturday only to fall 5-2 to the Anteaters.
The Sun Devils dropped to a 2-4 record to start the season, the worst start through six games in program history. ASU coach Tim Esmay said that fact doesn’t bother him.
We’ve just got to weather the storm and keep playing,” he said. “Tomorrow’s another day.”
Sophomore left-hander Ryan Kellogg took the ball against the Anteaters (3-3) Saturday, and it took some time for him to get into a groove. He allowed three runs in the first innings on five singles, but only one after the opening frame.
Kellogg completed six innings, allowing 10 hits and four runs. He struck out a pair and did not walk a batter.
“He pitched well today,” Esmay said. “He minimized that (first inning) and didn’t let it get away from him.”
Until ASU got on the board in the top of the sixth inning, the Sun Devils had not scored since the fourth inning on Tuesday, a span of 19 innings.
Sophomore center fielder Johnny Sewald ended that streak with RBI double, and sophomore first baseman Dalton Dinatale added a sacrifice fly to give ASU two runs. That was all the team would score.
Esmay said it’s frustrating that the team isn’t scoring more, but said the team has an aggressive approach that is leading to hard-hit balls, just to the occupied spots on the field.
“Right now we just need to hang with them, and understand they’re doing what we’re asking them to do, they’re squaring them up,” Esmay said.
After the three runs in the first, the Anteaters were able to score as a result of small things that won’t show up in the box score.
In the sixth inning with UC Irvine’s redshirt junior center fielder Justin Castro on second base, freshman left fielder Adam Alcantara hit a shallow fly ball to center field. Sewald initially stepped back, then had to charge in to catch it.
He wasn’t able to get to it, and Castro made a perfect read on Sewald fielding it and was able to come around and score from second without a throw. Esmay said he didn’t think Sewald would have gotten it even if he played it perfectly.
That gave the Anteaters a 4-2 led. One inning later, ASU sophomore righty Eric Melbostad allowed a single to UC Irvine redshirt sophomore designated hitter Grant Palmer. The next batter, junior shortstop Chris Rabago, tried to but down a sacrifice bunt, but was walked instead.
That was significant because Palmer came around to score on a sacrifice fly. He advanced to third on a ground ball. Had Melbostad been able to throw a strike to a batter that was trying to put down a sacrifice, Palmer would not have been in position to score on the fly ball by redshirt junior catcher Jerry McClanahan.
ASU lost by more than those two runs, but junior catcher Nate Causey doubled to lead off the ninth inning. Playing for one run in the ninth as opposed to three changes the game and small things like a misread ball and walk instead of a sacrifice put the Sun Devils in a hole out of which they were unable to climb.
“Those are those little things right now that are kind of nipping us a little bit,” Esmay said.
ASU completes its current road trip against Wright State Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. MST.
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