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Baseball takes two of three from UC Riverside

Abe Ruiz tags out a runner in a game against UC Riverside on Saturday. Ruiz continued his season-long hot streak at the plate, hitting his third home run of the season in Friday night’s game against the Highlanders. (Photo by Sam Rosenbaum)
Abe Ruiz tags out a runner in a game against UC Riverside on Saturday. Ruiz continued his season-long hot streak at the plate, hitting his third home run of the season in Friday night’s game against the Highlanders. (Photo by Sam Rosenbaum)

They bat in the four and five spots, but those are the only small numbers associated with ASU junior second baseman Joey DeMichele and senior first baseman Abe Ruiz in 2012.

The duo combined for 13 RBI, eight runs and three homers this weekend as the ASU baseball team won two out of three games against UC Riverside at Packard Stadium.

“Amazing, isn’t it?” coach Tim Esmay said. “They’ve done a really good job. I hope it puts some pressure on the other pitching staff to pick their poison. Who do they want to pitch to, and who do they want to pitch around?”

Throughout the six games this season, Ruiz and DeMichele accumulated 21 RBI and 22 runs scored, with each batting well over .450.

DeMichele was on everybody’s radar this year, but Ruiz has come out and surprised just about everyone except his teammates.

“Abe has proved what we knew before the season and is making the other manager’s job hard,” DeMichele said. “He’s a great hitter. I always knew he could hit, and I’m lucky to have him behind me.”

The pair’s Friday assault on the Highlanders’ (3-4) pitchers began early.

The No. 13 Sun Devils (5-1) scored four runs in the first inning with DeMichele providing most of the damage with a two-run triple. He then scored moments later when Ruiz delivered a base hit.

After single runs in the third, fourth and sixth innings to build on its lead, ASU broke the game wide open in the seventh when Ruiz connected for his third home run of the young season to drive in three and leave the score at 10–0.

The Sun Devils added another run in the eighth to cap the night off while junior right-handed pitcher Brady Rodgers (2-0) hurled seven shutout frames and struck out nine batters to earn the win.

“I was trying to throw strikes and let them put it in play, but they were taking the pitches,” Rodgers said. “I’m used to keeping my pitch count low and going the whole game, but I’ll take the strikeouts.”

UC Riverside scored three meaningless runs late, but ASU cruised to an 11–3 victory.

“I liked our focus,” Esmay said. “Our guys were ready to play. We made good plays in the field, our lineup provided support, and Brady set the tone.”

Saturday wasn’t as kind to the Sun Devils. The Highlanders jumped out to a 2–0 lead in the third inning thanks to a walk, a hit-by-pitch and two singles given up by ASU freshman right-handed pitcher Darin Gillies (0-1).

The Sun Devils answered an inning later when DeMichele hit his first homer of the season to cut the deficit in half. But after UC Riverside added an insurance run in the sixth, ASU couldn’t capitalize on multiple opportunities to even the score.

In both the eighth and ninth innings, the Sun Devils had two runners on with one out, but failed to push home any runs and consequentially lost for the first time this season, 3–1.

“You never like to lose, but I felt like we didn’t give away at bats,” Esmay said. “We were just making some pretty loud outs. I was upset about the loss, but I felt like we battled.”

ASU again began Sunday on the wrong foot, falling behind in the first inning when UC Riverside senior first baseman Vince Gonzalez hit a RBI single off ASU sophomore right-handed pitcher Trevor Williams.

The Sun Devils responded immediately in their first at bat with two runs of their own. ASU also had the help of two Highlander errors and a walk in the inning.

Two innings later, ASU broke through for three more scores, highlighted by a two RBI single from Ruiz.

The offense tacked on six more runs throughout the final innings, including homers from DeMichele and freshman first baseman Rouric Bridgewater.

Williams (2-0) tossed six innings, allowing six hits and two earned runs to secure the 11–2 win.

“Sometimes the ball doesn’t roll your way like Saturday, but today it did, and we made the most of it,” sophomore outfielder Kasey Coffman said. “We came out early and executed then piled on late.”


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