Ninth inning meltdown leads to one-run loss for ASU baseball

The Sun Devils were two outs away from a win against Cal State Fullerton

ASU baseball returned home to Phoenix Municipal Stadium from a six-game road trip and imploded in the ninth inning, losing a heartbreaker to the Cal State Fullerton Titans 7-6 in the first game of a two-game midweek set on Tuesday night.

After back-to-back series losses against UCLA and Washington State, the Sun Devils (13-15) were two outs away from a win.

But after the first two men reached in the ninth against sophomore closer Chaz Montoya, a walk loaded the bases. He then induced a ground ball to first base, but freshman first baseman Spencer Torkelson hesitated and threw the ball away, allowing two runs to score. Suddenly, the game was tied, 4-4.

“That’s the inexperience piece rearing its ugly head,” ASU head coach Tracy Smith said on Torkelson’s first error. “Sometimes you going to have to live with those plays when you’re playing this many young guys.”

Junior Connor Higgins relieved Montoya. An infield single gave the Titans a 5-4 lead. After a strikeout, Higgins induced a ground ball to first, but Torkelson threw it away from Higgins and another run scored on Torkelson’s second error of the inning. Now up 6-4, the Titans scored their fifth run of the inning on a wild pitch by Higgins and led 7-4 going to the bottom of the ninth.

“You cannot let the nervousness creep in and let that affect your play,” Smith said. “I’m upset with the fact that we let that stuff affect our next play and that’s where we have to grow as a ball club.”

ASU rallied back for two runs in the bottom of the ninth, but junior center fielder Gage Canning grounded out to the pitcher who threw to first and the game ended.

Smith said he liked that his team rallied but said a loss is still a loss.

“The moral victories are getting a little thin on me at this point,” Smith said.

After a demoralizing loss like this, redshirt freshman reliever Dellan Raish tried to explain how to move forward.

“We’ve all been there at one point in our life,” Raish said. “(We) pick each other up. That’s what good teammates do. We gel well together.”

Torkelson gave ASU an early 1-0 lead with a home run, his 14th of the season. Torkelson broke Barry Bonds’ ASU freshman single-season home run record on Friday night against the Cougars.

Cal State Fullerton answered with a run of its own in the top of the second. Freshman Drew Swift allowed the Titans’ leadoff man to reach after bobbling an easy ground ball. The runner advanced to second on a single. The next batter hit a ground ball right at Swift but instead of turning an easy double play, a throwing error allowed a run to score tying the game up, 1-1.

Swift immediately redeemed himself in the bottom half of the second. With runners on second and third Swift delivered a two-RBI base hit into center-field and the Sun Devils retook the lead, 3-1.

An RBI double down the right field line in the fourth frame the Sun Devils’ lead to one run, 3-2.

ASU got that run back in the fifth. Canning led off the inning with his ninth triple of the season, and subsequently scored on a wild pitch, giving the Sun Devils a 4-2 edge.

ASU junior starter Sam Romero allowed one two runs, one earned, in five innings.

Sophomore outfielder Hunter Bishop did not sugarcoat anything summing up tonight's loss.

“At the end of the day, you have to want the ball and it looked tonight like we didn’t want the ball,” Bishop said. “At the end of the day, it’s up to the players. It’s on us.

UP NEXT

ASU and Cal State Fullerton close out the two-game set with game two on Wednesday night at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.


Reach the reporter at jpjacqu1@asu.edu or follow @joejacquezaz on Twitter.

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