Sun Devils split series with Fullerton

After No. 14 ASU’s 1–0 dog fight victory over No. 13 Cal State Fullerton on Tuesday, the Titans (16-9) struck back Wednesday night with a decisive 9–5 victory over the Sun Devils (16-9, 3-3 Pac-12).

With the game tied 1–1 in the fourth, the Titans grabbed the momentum with three runs on four hits. The offensive output helped Fullerton chase ASU junior right-handed pitcher Billy Young (0-1, 4.26 ERA) from the game. Young had been solid in his first start for ASU up until that point.

“That young man was pitching at Mesa Community College last year, so for his first career start against a team like Fullerton, I was proud of him,” ASU couch Tim Esmay said. “He took the ball and was very confident, had some moxie to him a little bit tonight, and that’s the type of stuff you look for in a kid that’s having his first career start.”

Centerfielder Andrew Alpin helped the Sun Devils chip away at the deficit with a fifth-inning RBI double, but the Fullerton offense answered the challenge with two runs on two hits off junior pitcher Robert Ravago in the seventh.

The persistent Sun Devils continued to rally in the latter half of the seventh, as junior second baseman Joey DeMichele, senior first baseman Abe Ruiz and junior catcher Max Rossiter all had hits in the inning to bring a pair of runs home for the Sun Devils and cut the score to 6–4.

The night was also highlighted by several flare-ups with the home plate umpire, whom the home crowd took to booing repeatedly. Esmay came out to contest calls on multiple occasions, and junior southpaw Matt Dunbar was ejected in the ninth after disputing a fair call on a bunt play.

“We always talk about outside influences (on the game) with our guys, and we’ve got to handle that better,” Esmay said. “We’re going to have to adjust, and just play this game, and not let anything else get in the way of our focus and what we’re doing.”

Following the ejection, the Sun Devils’ defense seemed a little rattled. With junior pitcher Jake Barrett in for Dunbar, a throwing error on a routine bunt play, a wild pitch and a hit led to three Fullerton insurance runs and made the score 9–4.

“That was a tough situation for Jake Barrett to come in, after all of a sudden having to finish getting hot,” Esmay said. “That was unfortunate, and that’s not a good situation for anybody.”

In the bottom of the ninth, ASU managed to tack on a run thanks to a double by Ruiz, but it was too little, too late for the Sun Devils.

However, ASU still took away positives from the loss.

“What I was happy with tonight was that we never gave in, we kept playing,” Esmay said. “Those at-bats we had at the end were really good at-bats … I look at that as a plus.”

ASU now travels to Eugene, Ore., this weekend for a three-game set with the No. 23 Ducks, who have lost three in a row.

 

Reach the reporter at kjnewma2@asu.edu

 

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