ASU baseball coach Tim Esmay earns 400th win as Sun Devils beat Cal 4-1
Sophomore left-hander Ryan Kellogg picked up right where fellow lefty starter Brett Lilek left off on Friday, as ASU baseball defeated Cal 4-1 Saturday night.
The Sun Devil (19-13, 9-5) hitters wasted no time getting on the scoreboard, drawing first blood versus the Golden Bears (14-17, 3-8) for the second straight game.
Junior first baseman Nate Causey, hitting a team-leading .364, slugged his first home run of the season in his 95th at-bat of the year to give ASU the early 1-0 lead.
Kellogg's masterful pitching performance capped ASU's second straight home series win in the conference. In eight innings pitched, Kellogg struck out five and only allowed five hits and one earned run.
Coach Tim Esmay said the tandem of Lilek and Kellogg has risen to the occasion and elevated the team's weekend performances in the process.
"That's one of the best I've seen him pitch in a while," Esmay said. " I thought their kid (Kyle Porter) pitched similar to the way Kellogg did. When you think it's a hitter's count, and he can comeback with a breaking ball, that makes it tough."
Kellogg noted his defenders enabled him to be more flexible in pitch sequences.
"Having confidence in the guys behind me and allowing guys to put the ball in play helps brings things together," he said.
Kellogg said his fastball command and ability to locate his slider enabled him to shut down the Cal offense.
For a a stretch in the middle innings, Kellogg and Porter traded zeroes on the scoreboard.
"It's definitely fun when it's a pitcher's duel," Kellogg said. "He's got his stuff, I've got mine, and we see who ends up coming up on top at the end. It keeps the intensity up, and everyone is more engaged."
The Golden Bears were held scoreless for four straight innings, until junior third baseman Chris Paul scored freshman second baseman Robbie Tenerowicz on an RBI groundout to second base.
The only Cal hitter who managed to post consecutive multi-hit games in the first two games was sophomore first baseman Nick Halamandaris, who is 4-for-7 in the series overall thus far.
ASU regained the lead in the sixth off freshman shortstop Colby Woodmansee's sacrifice fly, plating sophomore third baseman Dalton Dinatale.
Although that run was all ASU would need for the win, a couple of insurance runs in the eighth inning came in handy during another ninth inning scare.
Sophomore closer Ryan Burr continued to struggle, loading the bases with a hit-by-pitch and two walks before he was removed for sophomore Jordan Aboites.
"It's tough, but you still believe in your guys, and trust them to go out there and secure the win for the team," Kellogg said.
Esmay said that despite his recent slump, Burr will continue to get the ball in the ninth inning in save situations.
Aboites came in with no outs and picked up a double play, salvaging Kellogg's gem, and picked up his first career save in the process.
"For him to come in and get hot, it speaks to his character," Esmay said. "He came in and pounded the zone. He's resilient and he's ready to throw the ball."
With the win, ASU picked up their fourth series win in conference, and second in a row at home.
"The cardiac Devils keep playing, keep finding a way," Esmay said.
Despite his team's recent success, Kellogg insisted that the bar for the Sun Devils is set much higher.
"We've won this series, but that's not good enough for us," Kellogg said. "We're looking for a sweep every weekend."
ASU will attempt to complete a sweep of Cal on Sunday, April 13 at 12:30.
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