Video by Stefan Modrich | Assistant Sports Editor
Despite a herculean effort from sophomore starter Brett Lilek, (4-4, 2.41 ERA) Oregon edged ASU 5-4 Friday night.
Now losers of five straight, coach Tim Esmay and the Sun Devils (24-21, 12-10 Pac-12) appear to be creating more questions than they have answers for as the postseason draws even closer.
After a sharp first inning in which he retired the first three Duck hitters in order, Lilek pegged sophomore third baseman Mitchell Tolman, who scored on a single by sophomore catcher Josh Graham.
A pair of errors that followed allowed the Ducks (36-14, 13-9 Pac-12) to tack on another run in the second.
“That was huge,” Esmay said. “Obviously, these guys are playing hard and trying to make plays. It’s just unfortunate that we couldn’t do the little things.”
The first was a throwing error on an attempt to convert on the force-play at second by freshman catcher Brian Serven over the head of junior shortstop Drew Stankiewicz, enabling Graham to advance to second base, and the next mishap was a fielding error committed by Stankiewicz that allowed Graham to come around to score.
Lilek allowed just four hits and only three earned runs, striking out a career-high nine batters,but was responsible for all five totaled by the Ducks Friday night.
His lone walk of the evening started the rally that gave the Ducks the edge in the top of the fifth.
Freshman Mark Karaviotis was issued a free pass to begin the inning, and senior right fielder Tyler Baumgartner was hit by a pitch, setting up first and third for Tolman. Tolman crushed a ball over the head of junior left fielder Jake Peevyhouse for a triple, scoring both Karaviotis and Baumgartner. The ensuing relay throw went into the third base dugout, capping the Ducks’ three-spot in the fifth.
ASU chipped away at the 5-2 deficit, adding a run in the sixth on redshirt junior second baseman Tucker Esmay’s RBI groundout, and pulled within a run when sophomore center fielder Johnny Sewald reached via fielder’s choice.
But the offense was plagued by its inability to take advantage of opportunities throughout the game, stranding 10 runners and were hurt by an absence of production from the top five hitters, finishing 2-19 on the night. “It’s the same old thing, not finishing at-bats,” Esmay said. “We didn’t go for (their) throat, and we didn’t finish them off.”
Junior Tommy Thorpe (8-4, 2.47 ERA) struck out five Sun Devils in five innings pitched, allowing just two runs on four hits in the win, and junior closer Jake Reed notched his 12th save of the season, retiring the heart of the ASU lineup in order to finish the game.
Sophomore lefty Ryan Kellogg will go to the bump for ASU against redshirt senior Jeff Gold for game two, scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Packard Stadium.
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