They call him the biggest little reliever in the country, and his big effort was just what the Sun Devils needed.
Some days he’s a shortstop, others he’s a pitcher, but Saturday afternoon it was sophomore Jordan Aboites’s pitching that helped ASU baseball beat UCLA 8-5 and even the series.
“That’s huge. We came into today forgetting about yesterday,” Aboites said. “We’re going to come into tomorrow the same way as today, coming right after them, confident that we’re going to get the win.”
Aboites came on in the sixth inning to defend a 6-4 lead for the Sun Devils (14-11, 4-4 Pac-12). His inherited runner scored, but other than that, he was lights-out against the Bruins (16-9, 6-2 Pac-12).
He went 2 2/3 scoreless innings, only allowed two base runners, struck out two and did exactly what a middle reliever is supposed to do: act as the bridge from starter to closer.
Aboites allowed scattered base runners in his relief innings, and it seemed like it would be a high-pressure situation for sophomore closer Ryan Burr. Instead, the Sun Devil offense thought it would give its right-hander some breathing room.
Redshirt junior outfielder Trever Allen led off the top of the ninth in a 6-5 ballgame and blasted his offering from redshirt freshman righty Nick Kern off the left-field foul pole to give ASU a two-run cushion. Then, junior outfielder Jake Peevyhouse smacked his third double of the game was singled home by freshman catcher Brian Serven to give ASU its 8-5 lead.
It turned into an easy ninth inning after all, and Burr finished the game off, punctuating it with a swinging strikeout on the last batter of the game.
“It’s nice coming in knowing that I have all the confidence,” Aboites said. “I’m excited to be able to come in and relieve (sophomore lefty Ryan) Kellogg, and I knew Burr was going to come in and close the door.”
Peevyhouse has been some kind of hot since his return to the lineup. From Feb. 28 to March 18, he did not see a start. He jumped back into the lineup on March 19 against Wichita State and has hit .368 since, with three doubles on top of that.
One thing that Aboites has that many pitchers don’t is a high level of athleticism that comes from playing shortstop. He has played both positions this year, and that has shown a few times this year when he pounces of the mound and fields the ball like an infielder.
He did just that in the eighth inning with his team up 6-5. After giving up a leadoff walk, he made an acrobatic play off the bump to retire UCLA senior outfielder Brian Carroll on a bunt attempt.
ASU’s starting pitcher, Kellogg, labored through 5 1/3 innings and got charged with five runs. He also allowed 10 hits.
For the third of three Pac-12 series, Sunday will serve as the rubber game for the Sun Devils. They were unable to take the finale against Washington, but beat Oregon State. It will be up to junior right-hander Darin Gillies Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles, with first pitch scheduled for 1 p.m.
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