Up-the-middle combo, starting pitching help ASU baseball surge from behind to take first game in Surprise

SURPRISE, Ariz.– ASU baseball refused to let an early deficit be its downfall.

After falling behind 3-0 after only a half-inning of play, the Sun Devils (4-4) tied the game in the second, then added six more to take the opening game in the Sanderson Ford College Baseball Classic 9-6 against Santa Clara.

And it was the shortstop-second base duo that led the way.



Trailing by three runs in the second, redshirt junior second baseman Tucker Esmay stepped the plate with two runners on. He brought them both home safely with a triple down the right-field line. He then scored on an RBI groundout by sophomore center fielder Johnny Sewald.

Esmay’s production has snuck under the radar up to this point in the season for the Sun Devils, but it won’t be that that way much longer. Friday’s game brought his batting average up to .375 on the season with five RBIs.

Esmay’s double-play partner, junior shortstop Drew Stankiewicz, put on a clinic on both sides of the ball. At the plate, he went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs scored.

In the field he made a spectacular throw from his back in the third inning to throw out the Bronco (5-5) runner and made a sprawling catch in foul territory in the fifth.

“I overran it a little bit,” Stankiewicz said of the pop fly in the fifth. “Ball came back and I just had to do anything I could to catch it.”

But Stankiewicz didn’t want to talk about himself.

“I saw the ball great today, but I want to give a shout out to (junior right-hander Darin Gillies),” Stankiewicz said.

Gillies started the game on the mound for the Sun Devils, and after a rocky start, settled down to turn in one of his finer outings. He allowed three runs in the first inning on four singles, then did not allow a run the rest of the evening.

He finished by allowing three runs on seven hits while striking out a season-high six in a career-high six innings.

Stankiewicz said it was big for Gillies to throw six innings, especially in the format of the tournament. ASU plays four games in four days, so getting six strong innings from one of its non-weekend starters was huge.

ASU returns to Surprise to play Gonzaga on Friday, followed by Oklahoma on Saturday and No. 14 Oklahoma State on Sunday. First pitch is scheduled for 40 minutes after the conclusion of the Cactus League game between the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers.

Reach the reporter at justin.emerson@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @J15Emerson