ASU Baseball: Defensive struggles lead to home series loss to USC

ASU could not find even footing on the mound for the second straight outing

The Sun Devils (14-18, 6-6 Pac-12) struggled on the mound for the second straight day as they fell to the USC Trojans, 8-4, Sunday at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. It was ASU’s ninth loss in its last 12 games. 

“We're not going to win consistently until we're more consistent on the bump,” ASU head coach Tracy Smith said.

USC got to ASU’s starting pitcher Sam Romero early and jumped on the scoreboard in the top of the first inning with an RBI single. 

The Trojan offense would find the board again in the top of the third inning when USC junior infielder Dillon Paulson hit a ground-rule double to left field, scoring junior infielder Brandon Perez for a 2-0 lead. 

The junior right hander Romero only lasted 4.1 innings, giving up five hits and three runs — two earned — while striking out five batters. 

Once the Trojans dealt with ASU’s bullpen, they were able to take control of the game and, for the most part, hold the Sun Devil bats at bay. 

USC junior southpaw Quentin Longrie won his fourth game of the year while Romero was dealt his first loss of 2018. 

Home Run Derby

ASU hit three home runs Sunday, the most since March 17, when the Sun Devils hit four against the Oregon Ducks. 

The first occurred in the bottom of the fourth inning when sophomore outfielder Carter Aldrete sent a 2-1 pitch over the right field wall for a solo home run. It was Aldrete’s first homer of the season. 

The second long ball came off the bat of freshman infielder Gage Workman in the bottom of the seventh inning. It was Workman’s first career collegiate home run. 

"What I liked about that at bat is he stayed in the count, he did a really good job and then got something up that he could handle," Smith said. "There are going to be a few more of those from him as he grows and settles in as a hitter." 

The usual slugger shared in the home run tally as well — freshman infielder Spencer Torkelson smashed his 15th dinger of the year in the bottom of the eighth inning. 

“I thought, offensively, even after the miscues, that guys continued to throw together good at bats … and not get selfish,” Smith said. 

Torkelson continues his stellar year with a .306 batting average and 23 games to go in 2018. 

Costly Error Swings Momentum

In the top of the fifth inning, all seemed to be faring better for the Sun Devils. Down 2-1, Romero looked to have settled in, defense was playing well and ASU had just cut into USC’s slim lead. 

However, a pop fly to left center field saw junior centerfielder Gage Canning and Aldrete, playing in left field, collide going for the baseball. It dropped between the two, and runners advanced to second and third. 

“They both were calling at the same time,” Smith said. “I would venture to say if Carter (Aldrete)’s played a lot out in left, he’d probably know that you defer particularly to a Gage Canning who covers everything.”

One play later, a sacrifice fly scored USC’s third run of the day to make the score 3-1 Trojans. The momentum the Sun Devils had built off of Aldrete’s solo home run started to flicker. 

The next inning would prove no better for the Sun Devils as USC scored two runs off redshirt freshman relief pitcher Dellan Raish to make it 5-1 in favor of the Trojans. 

In the top of the eighth inning, sophomore pitcher Chaz Montoya entered the game, but quickly surrendered three straight hits and another run without recording an out. 

“Chaz (Montoya) is just flat right now,” Smith said. “I thought his ball went flat today.”

Two more runs would score before the top half of the eighth came to an end, bringing USC's lead to 8-2.

“That to me was the difference in the game is just holding them close,” Smith said. “The eighth and ninth innings, we have got to understand, those have to be your best innings of baseball … and we certainly did not do that today from a physical and mental standpoint.”

Canning had an uneven game offensively as well. His 31-game on-base streak came to an end Sunday, as the usueal leadoff man went 0-5 with a strikeout. Canning’s batting average now stands at .404. 

What’s Next for ASU

The Sun Devils travel to Las Vegas for a quick, one-game series with the UNLV Rebels on Tuesday. Earlier this season, the two teams met at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, when the Rebels clobbered ASU, 10-3, on March 20. 

First pitch from Las Vegas on Tuesday is slated for 6:05 p.m. MST. 

Reach the reporter at or follow @Michael_Baron96 on Twitter.

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