Alec Marsh powers ASU baseball over USC

The Sun Devils right-hander kept the Trojans off-balance all game long

ASU baseball showcased superiority in all three phases of the game, defeating USC in game one of a three-game series, 5-1, in front of a packed Phoenix Municipal Stadium on Friday night. 

Sophomore right-handed starter Alec Marsh paced the Sun Devils (14-16, 6-4 Pac-12) to a win over the Trojans. He tossed eight scoreless innings and picked up his third win of the season. 

“I thought Alec Marsh was tremendous tonight,” head coach Tracy Smith said. “(He was) down in the zone, using the sinker, and he was throwing strikes. 

“He wanted the ball and wanted the shutout,” Smith said. “I thought he put the team on the back tonight and said ‘Hey, follow me, we’re going to win.’”

Marsh went out for the ninth inning but only got one out before being lifted for with two runners on for junior left-hander Connor Higgins. Higgins walked the first batter he faced and was taken out for senior right-hander Jake Godfrey. Godfrey walked in the Trojans' first run, but two fly outs finished the game.

“Our new thing is to make our eighth and ninth innings the most critical of the game,” Marsh said. “We call them ‘encore innings.’ Those innings are most crucial for us because that’s usually when stuff starts to go wrong.”

After dropping two straight games to Cal State Fullerton this week, ASU came into the night 2-7 in its last 9 games, so this win ended a bad stretch.

The Trojans had a huge opportunity to take control of the game early, loading the bases with nobody out in the second, after Marsh allowed a single, double and hit a batter. Pitching coach Mike Cather came out to talk to Marsh, and he promptly struck out the next batter and induced a 4-6-3 double play to get out of the inning. 

Then, in the bottom half of the second, after a leadoff double by sophomore designated hitter Carter Aldrete and a groundout that advanced him to third, sophomore right fielder Hunter Bishop executed a perfect drag bunt to drive in the first run of the game.

The Sun Devils added to their lead in the third. Junior center fielder Gage Canning jumped on a first pitch fastball for his fourth home run of the season and second of this week, giving ASU a 2-0 lead.

ASU manufactured another run in the bottom of the fifth. Freshman third baseman Gage Workman led off with a single. The next batter, freshman shortstop Drew Swift, bunted down the right field line but the pitcher threw the ball over the first baseman, putting runners at the corners with nobody out. Canning drove Workman in with an RBI groundout to make it 3-0 and freshman first baseman Spencer Torkelson's RBI single made it 4-0.

ASU added a run in the eighth with an RBI single from senior pinch hitter Taylor Lane.

Marsh Mowes Down the Trojans

Meanwhile, Marsh was excellent after the double play in the second, allowing only one hit the rest of the way. He spotted his fastball, generated weak contact and used his curveball to strike out batters.

All of this allowed Marsh to pitch efficiently, who lowered his ERA to 2.50.

“I was getting ahead,” Marsh said. “I started to learn to throw a slider a couple weeks ago, and that started coming into play, and (I was) dropping in a curveball for a first-pitch strike.”

Situational Execution

Whether it was Bishop’s drag bunt to push across a run or Canning’s groundout to manufacture another run, this is what ASU has been looking for. The Sun Devils also did not commit an error after five in their last two games.

“What we did throughout the game I thought was situational hitting,” Smith said. “We did the little things to move runners and then we scored runs without having to get the hit, so I thought it was a step in the right direction.”

Torkelson said the ability to manufacture a run was "much needed."

“We were struggling with situational hitting in the beginning of the year, and now it seems we’re coming around,” Torkelson said.

Up Next

The Sun Devils and Trojans will play game two of their series on Saturday night at 6:30 p.m.

Reach the reporter at or follow @joejacquezaz on Twitter.

Like State Press Sports on Facebook and follow @statepresssport on Twitter.

Get the best of State Press delivered straight to your inbox.