ASU baseball defeated New Mexico State 2-0 Tuesday night, backed by a career-high seven innings from freshman righty Seth Martinez, as the Sun Devils (24-17, 12-9 Pac-12) won their seventh straight game against the Aggies (17-23, 8-7 WAC).
Coach Tim Esmay underscored the importance of having a fourth starter to complement the three regulars in the ASU rotation: sophomores Brett Lilek and Ryan Kellogg, and junior Darin Gillies.
“I felt loose out there today,” Martinez said. “I just wanted to make sure I pounded the zone. Each start, I’ve felt a little bit more comfortable, with more experience.”
“To have him in that spot, and to go deeper into games, that’s (huge),” Esmay said. “He earned that spot by performance. You’re always trying to find that fourth guy, that swing man, and that’s nice to have.”
Martinez powered through a feeble-hitting NMSU lineup, only allowing two hits, five walks, striking out six en route to his third win of the season.
“I went out there with the mindset that each inning was a new inning,” Martinez said. “I just go pitch-by-pitch.”
“He pitched outstanding tonight,” Esmay said. “He came back and made big pitches, pounded the zone and was around the plate all night.”
ASU’s offense sputtered, amassing just four hits and continuing its pattern of inconsistency but scored a run in the first and seventh innings.
Sophomore centerfielder Johnny Sewald got the Sun Devils on the board in the bottom of the first, when junior catcher Nate Causey grounded into a double play.
ASU notched an insurance run in the seventh when redshirt junior second baseman Tucker Esmay reached on an error and redshirt junior right fielder Trever Allen scored from third after leading off the inning with a double into the left center gap.
Esmay made some major changes at the corner infield spots, resting sophomore Dalton DiNatale and regular freshman catcher Brian Serven, as Causey made his first start behind the plate since April 30, 2013.
“As we roll forward, and some guys might be struggling, we’ve got to give (other) guys some game-speed at-bats,” Esmay said. “Our offense has been streaky at best, and when that starts to happen, you’ve got to make some changes.”
Esmay said the quick turnaround that comes with playing on Tuesday nights can result in diminishing returns in nonconference games midweek, but ultimately pays dividends in the form of extra preparation for an upcoming weekend series.
The Sun Devils travel to face No. 10 Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla., on May 2.
“We do have to get tightened up and (consistently) have more quality at-bats as the game goes on,” Esmay said. “At this point in the year, a win’s a win, and we did what it took tonight.”
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