ASU baseball drops fourth straight game

The Sun Devils lost a midweek home game to San Diego and will be looking to turn things around against Utah this weekend.

Eight steps forward, four steps back. After closing non-conference play with eight consecutive wins, ASU baseball dropped a midweek home game 6-3 to San Diego and has now lost four straight. 

In his postgame presser, head coach Tracy Smith acknowledged that going through stretches where nothing goes right is part of baseball. 

But during those times, a coach looks for the character of his squad and how the players respond to that adversity, Smith said. Right now, he doesn't feel they are responding well at all. 

"There wasn't a lot of fight in the dog today," he said. "That concerns me because if everybody is going to feel good, if everybody is going to put in energy and effort into something — it's easy to do it when you're winning. It's not so easy when you're not playing well...I'm not liking what I'm seeing right now out of our ball club."

ASU (13-7) never led as the Toreros scored a run in each of the first three innings to jump out to an early lead. 

In the first inning, USD's (13-10) Bryson Brigman singled, Riley Adams doubled and Ryan Kirby hit a sacrifice fly to make it 1-0. Brigman went 3-for-5 with a single, double and triple, and also scored two runs. 

Jordan Aboites made his first start of the year at Cal State Fullerton and did a solid job in his first game back from a suspension for violating team standards. He started his second game of the year on Tuesday and gave up three earned runs on seven hits while striking out three batters in four innings. 

Smith said Aboites did his job, but the skipper wasn't particularly pleased with the defense behind him. 

"Our outfield probably led to a run one way or another by not making a play, by not making a catch," Smith said.

Aboites made sure to clarify that he wasn't knocking any of his teammates, but said he felt like everyone could do a better job of playing with intensity. 

"I think that's something that needs to be fixed and will be fixed moving on," he said. 

At one point, the Sun Devils trailed 3-2 after Andrew Shaps' (2-for-4, RBI) bases-loaded RBI single, but San Diego's Matthew Kirk got a double play ball with the bases still loaded to limit the damage and squash any chance of  ASU taking a lead. 

In the next half inning, Ryan Kirby (2-for-3, 3 RBI) and Hunter Mercado-Hood (1-for-3, 2 RBI) drove in runs to extend the USD lead to 5-3. And in the top of the eighth, Kirby's solo home run to center field sealed the victory. 

USD starter Gary Cornish gave up a hit and a run in two innings. Four other pitchers combined to preserve the Toreros' lead. 

The Sun Devils left 11 runners on base.

One focal point of ASU's offensive struggles has been the lack of production from the leadoff spot. Junior Daniel Williams, freshman Jeremy McCuin and Shaps have all led off in 2016. On Tuesday, sophomore Coltin Gerhart went 1-for-5 in the leadoff hole. 

Smith said the trouble is that juniors David Greer and Colby Woodmansee have been hitting well, but guys in front of them in the order haven't been getting on base. He's tried to move the lineup up a spot. Greer hit second and Woodmansee third in the loss to USD. 

"The logic there being if you're not going to get any guys on ahead of them, then let's get our best hitters to the plate as many times as possible," Smith said. "That's not the optimal position to be in."

The Sun Devils ended the non-conference slate on a high note, but have spiraled a bit since. After a rough sweep against No. 3 Oregon State and a home midweek loss to USD, they find themselves with just a day to rest and prepare for a home series with Utah. 

Aboites said the team just needs to take the good with the bad and balance each out. 

"You kind of realize it's a long season and you don't want to ride on your high horse when you're doing great," he said. "It's baseball. You can have a great day one day, and a bad day the next. You don't want to be up and down too much. You want to just stay level and be ready for anything."


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

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