ASU baseball beat by Stanford in light of massive roster changes

The Sun Devils lost 13-8 on a night overshadowed by roster turnover

ASU baseball continued its trend of poor play with a 13-8 loss to No. 14 Stanford (30-12, 13-7 Pac-12) on Saturday night. 

And while the Sun Devils (19-24, 6-14 Pac-12) didn't have the best night on the field, the game was shrouded with off-field concerns.

Earlier on Saturday, the team went through some roster upheaval when junior outfielder Andrew Shaps announced he had been released – senior infielder Jackson Willeford and junior outfielder Ryan Lillard also both left the team voluntarily. This comes after sophomore pitchers Zach Dixon and Chris Isbell announcement on Thursday through Instagram that they both would be leaving the team.

"At this time of the year, after finals week, you cut the roster down just on guys that aren't traveling (to road games)," head coach Tracy Smith said. "And also at that time is a time when you tell guys where they stand in their current situation, where you see them in the future."

Smith would not go into specifics about what was said to the players, but mentioned that many of the conversations revolved around why players weren't traveling with the team and about their future roles with the team.

While most of the departed players were struggling for playing time, Shaps was the consistent starting center fielder and was successful at the plate, batting .299 with 17 RBI and was tied for the team lead in home runs with five. Shaps was suspended in some of the early games this year as well.

The ASU athletic department had a statement about Shaps and Lillard before the game stating: "Sun Devil athletics thanks Andrew Shaps and Ryan Lillard for their contributions to Sun Devil baseball. The program is moving forward and investing focus and energy on the current team."

As for the actual game, ASU was unable to overcome the negative energy with a horrendous start to the game.

The Sun Devils gave up 11 runs in the first four innings and could not recover. Junior starting pitcher Eli Lingos had an abysmal outing, giving up eight runs (five earned) in 2.0 innings pitched. Lingos entered the game with a 3.33 ERA, but after his poor performance he left with a 3.86 ERA. 

Sophomore reliever Reagan Todd somewhat silenced Stanford in 4.0 innings pitched, but still surrendered three runs in the fourth inning.

Smith hoped the unusual pregame events weren't the reason for the poor start.

"I would assume a lot of these guys are going to play professional baseball someday, they're going to have friends that are traded, friends that get released," Smith said. "You've got to be professional enough to put that stuff behind you and still go out."

ASU did manage to muster some offensive pushback, with a fourth inning solo home run from sophomore center fielder Gage Canning.

Freshman first baseman Lyle Lin added more power in the sixth. Lin blasted a no-doubt two-run home run far beyond the left field fence that scored the Sun Devils' fourth run.

From there, ASU staged somewhat of a comeback, starting with an RBI single from sophomore third baseman Jeremy McCuin in the seventh inning. 

Freshman outfielder Hunter Bishop drove in two more with an RBI single in the eighth and later stole home thanks to a wild pitch. Those runs cut the Cardinal lead to 12-8, but that's as close as ASU would get.

Stanford extended its lead in the ninth with a Matt Winaker RBI single, whereas the Sun Devils failed to score, securing a 13-8 loss.

After a lopsided loss, some untimely roster turnover, and in the midst of a 19-24 campaign that will end without postseason play, Smith is still confident in the future of the program.

"Let's see how it plays out, let's see when some of these younger kids are a year older, and we bring in a few more classes in here, let's see where we are," Smith said. "I've done this, this is my third time doing this. I feel very confident in the plan, the plan works.

"One of my favorite sayings is, 'We're going to stick to the game plan and panic isn't part of the game plan." 

The series will conclude on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.


Reach the reporter at mpharri7@asu.edu or follow @Harris_Mark7 on Twitter.

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