ASU baseball's youth movement carries Sun Devils to 5-2 win over UNLV
It wasn't the usual suspects that got it done, but ASU baseball rebounded with a win on Tuesday night.
Although, it was a familiar face in sophomore closer Ryan Burr that bounced back in a big way, picking up his 19th career save, sealing a 5-2 win over UNLV.
"Burr was Burr tonight, and it's a great response for him," ASU coach Tim Esmay said. "It's tough to be perfect, and when Ryan Burr doesn't have to be perfect, it's still really good."
Behind him, freshman starter Seth Martinez pitched a career-high six innings, striking out two and only allowing two runs on six hits.
Rebel starter Kenny Oakley fell to 3-3 in the loss. Through seven innings, he struck out four hitters, allowing five hits and three runs in the loss.
"I felt great," Martinez said. "I made sure to pound the zone and have confidence in defense. Our outfielders did a great job tracking some balls down, so that helped."
Martinez appreciated the job that freshman relievers Eder Erives and Hever Bueno did to shut down the Rebel hitters in their two innings of work.
"They're huge back there for us," Martinez said. "They're strike-throwers, and they're a big part of it."
Esmay was impressed with the versatility of the young arms developed under the direction of pitching coach Ken Knutson in the bullpen.
"It was nice to get them out there," Esmay said. "Those guys make us better and gave us a chance to allow (sophomore reliever Jordan Aboites) to get fresh."
Erives notched his first win of the season, striking out two of the three UNLV batters he faced in the seventh inning.
The Rebels (25-12, 13-5 Mountain West) fell to 14-58-1 all-time against the Sun Devils (20-14, 10-6 Pac-12) with the loss.
Esmay understood the significance of ASU avoiding a loss in consecutive weekday games after dropping their last two series finales.
"We needed to respond, and I thought that there was a little residual offensively from the weekend," Esmay said. "We found out a way to grind out some at-bats late, and some big knocks when we needed to."
Even with key members of the Sun Devil order out, or in a slump, the rest of the lineup found a way to make up for their absence.
With sophomore designated hitter RJ Ybarra out with a rib injury, and sophomore first baseman Nate Causey going 1-for-4 against UNLV after a poor offensive series against Cal, the Sun Devils tapped into new sources of offense Tuesday night.
Esmay said Ybarra visited a chiropractor and benefitted from the day off, and added that that he should be ready for the series beginning Thursday night at Stanford.
"We were kind of in a funk there, but we had some confident at-bats up there, and attacked," Esmay said.
Freshman catcher Brian Serven, normally praised for his defense, came through with a clutch RBI double, to follow that sophomore of third baseman Dalton DiNatale in the bottom of the sixth inning.
"With catching (nearly every day), you get beat up, and for him to come up there and have those quality at-bats was big," Esmay said.
Redshirt junior second baseman Tucker Esmay hadn't had an at-bat since ASU's home series against Tennessee back on March 9.
Tuesday night, in the sixth inning he was inserted for junior Drew Stankiewicz, and scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the seventh off of a sacrifice-fly by freshman shortstop Colby Woodmansee, the conference leader in sacrifice RBIs.
His single in the bottom of the eighth drove in two insurance runs to open up the ASU lead.
"I think that just shows how strong our offense is," Esmay said. "We have great confidence in guys that not only in the lineup but that come come off the bench, or maybe get that alternate start, and keep producing for us."
With the win, ASU is now just three games out of first place in the Pac-12, behind idle Washington.
Headed to Palo Alto, Calif., on Wednesday, Esmay addressed the importance of preparing for a Stanford team eager to defend their home field.
"If you're on the road, you can't allow teams to hang around," Esmay said. "If we get a chance to get on somebody, you can't afford to let them back in. We'll have some tough young arms coming at us, playing a tough Stanford team at home."
ASU travels to Stanford for a three-game set against the Cardinal, beginning on Thursday, April 17 at 6 p.m.
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