ASU baseball buried by 10 Utah runs in final two innings of rubber match

The Sun Devils had fought back from a 6-2 deficit to take a 7-6 lead, Utah exploded for 10 runs in the final two innings.

ASU baseball erased an early four-run deficit with five unanswered runs, but the game's biggest rally was yet to come. Leading by a run heading to the eighth inning, the Sun Devils allowed 10 runs in the final two frames.

After Sunday's 16-7 rubber match loss to Utah, ASU (14-9, 1-5 Pac-12) has now lost six of its last seven and will now be on the heels of a series loss to the Utes, who entered on Thursday with the worst overall record in the conference. Entering the series, the Sun Devils were also 11-1 against Utah since the Utes' move to the Pac-12.

Utah (8-13, 4-2) scored its runs on 23 hits, but could have had more as it left 16 runners on base. Additionally, the Utes were 14-for-21 with two outs, leading to 11 two-out RBIs. 

Head coach Tracy Smith went to junior David Greer on the mound in the eighth inning. Greer had already played first and third in the game, and Smith said his velocity wasn't where it needed to be, which wasn't ideal for ASU in dealing with the matchups in the Utah lineup. 

Smith said it was no knock on Greer, who went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and finished a home run shy of the cycle. He credited Utah for battling as well. 

"It's crazy stuff, everything they put the bat on fell in," Smith said of the final two innings. "I was happy the way we came back (from a 6-2 deficit), but clearly not happy with the way we closed it out."

Junior Hever Bueno returned to the mound for ASU after an arm strain suffered on opening night kept him out since. He gave up an earned run on a hit and two talks in an inning of work, but struck out the side in the first. His day was done after 27 pitches.

Smith said the staff was realistically looking for 30 pitches or so from Bueno. 

"It looked like to me that he didn't recover as much from sitting after a long inning," Smith said. "We scored a couple runs, we went back out there, and the velocity was not the same...We made the decision (to pull Bueno) after that first pitch in the second."

The Sun Devils scored the first two runs of the game in the bottom of the first, but they didn't lead long as Utah scored three in the top of the second. 

In the fifth inning, Utah's Josh Rose hit a 2-RBI ground rule double, and Davis hit an RBI single past third baseman Jordan Aboites to extend the lead to 6-2. 

But the Sun Devils responded in the bottom half. Juniors Tyler Williams and Daniel Williams both walked before pinch-hitter RJ Ybarra poked a bloop single to center field. 

With the bases loaded, sophomore second baseman Andrew Snow drove in two runs with a single before Woodmansee's RBI single brought ASU within a run. Snow, the team's newest leadoff option, finished 1-for-3 and also drew two walks. 

"I thought his at-bats truly yesterday and today were phenomenal," Smith said. "If he can continue to do that and get on ahead of those other guys, I think it's a key for us offensively. Not the prototypical leadoff guy, but with where we are right now, we need somebody to get on base."

And in the sixth inning, sophomore Andrew Shaps singled and then made it all the way home to tie the game on junior catcher Brian Serven's double. The Sun Devils took the lead in the seventh on Greer's double that allowed Snow to run from first to home. 

Utah's AJ Young, Dallas Carroll and DaShawn Keirsey all went 3-for-5 at the plate, and the top three guys in the Utes order each drove in two runs. 

After Bueno, ASU used nine pitchers in relief. With exception to junior Seth Martinez's consistent performances and sophomore Ryan Hingst's no-hitter, the team's pitching staff has struggled to gain traction. 

With two series losses to start conference play, perhaps the pressure is magnified to steady the situation. Smith said the team is going to look at every option with its pitching staff moving forward as it starts a series with Washington State on Thursday. 

"Our thought process is we have to win series," he said. "Seth (Martinez) has been by far the most consistent for us all year and the Friday stuff, he hasn't had a lot to show for it in terms of the run support. I think our guys are swinging the bat a little bit better right now, so I think that's going to change...We have to win a series. Right now, we have two guys throwing the baseball well in the starting role."


Reach the reporter at Justin.Toscano@asu.edu or on Twitter @justintoscano3.

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