ASU baseball postseason recap

It was a bitter end to a season for a team that seemingly revived itself during its lowest point. After the Sun Devils suffered a loss at home against Oregon directly after being swept on the road by Oklahoma State, the team faced a 24-21 record and questions of if they would even make the playoffs.

Coach Tim Esmay and his team responded to the doubters by winning nine of the last 10 games of the regular season. During that span, ASU saw improvements in about every facet of the game from pitching to hitting home runs. The Sun Devils rolled into the postseason and were named a No. 2 seed in the Cal Poly regional in San Luis Obispo, California.

Their first opponent was a 39-16 Pepperdine team coming fresh off of a WCC Championship victory.

An early injury to ASU starting pitcher sophomore Brett Lilek forced freshman Seth Martinez to come into the game in the first inning. After allowing two runs in the second, Martinez settled down and proceeded to have the best game of his young career. In just over six innings pitched, Martinez had seven strikeouts and allowed only three hits. The two runs given up in the second would be the only runs he allowed.

The defense was strong, shutting out Pepperdine after the second inning. What was unexpected, though, was that the Sun Devils weren’t swinging the bat as well as they were leading up to the postseason. En route to scoring two runs, only three ASU players recorded a hit and only redshirt junior right fielder Trever Allen had more than one as he went 2-for-4.

In what ultimately became a pitching duel, ASU lost to Pepperdine 3-2 and now had to beat Sacramento State to remain alive.

Despite being the No. 4 seed in the regional, Sacramento State held a 39-23 record and was the WAC champions.

The game was scoreless until the bottom of the fifth inning, when Hornets sophomore right fielder Nathan Lukes hit a two-RBI double to open up the scoring. ASU countered in the very next frame by tying the game with a two-RBI single by sophomore third baseman Dalton DiNatale.

ASU wouldn’t be able to keep the momentum going to open up a lead, and instead Sacramento State scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth and now had a 5-2 lead going into potentially the last inning of the season for the Sun Devils.

The urgency picked up immediately for ASU. Sophomore designated hitter RJ Ybarra hit a two-run home run to make it 5-4 with no outs. Eventually ASU had the tying runner, junior left fielder Jake Peevyhouse, on third and the winning run, junior catcher Nate Causey, on second with one out remaining.

Allen was at bat and was 1-3 on the day. On a full count, Allen struck out looking and ASU could only come so painfully close but were once again on the wrong end of a one-run game. The Sun Devils exited the postseason failing to make it past regionals for the second year in a row.

Losing two one-run games in the playoffs continued a theme that plagued ASU all season long. Of its 22 regular season losses, seven of them were one-run games.

The Sun Devils won what was possibly the most important game for them to win this season in Packard Stadium’s final game against Abilene Christian, but a deep playoff run would have been nice for a team that hasn’t seen that since 2009.

 

Reach the reporter at hkossodo@asu.edu or on Twitter @HKossodo