Bullpen falters in ASU baseball's loss to Washington

After falling behind early, ASU's offense couldn't claw back into the game against the Huskies

The bullpen faltered, and ASU baseball dropped game two of its three-game series with Washington, 7-3, on Saturday night at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.

Following a win Friday night, the Sun Devils (19-26, 11-12 Pac-12) had a chance to win a home series against the Huskies for the first time since 2012. However, junior pitcher Connor Higgins allowed three earned runs in 1.1 innings of relief, and ASU’s offense could not overcome a 6-2 deficit after four innings.

“I think some of the confidence piece of it is lost, and when you lose your confidence, it’s a little tough,” ASU head coach Tracy Smith said on Higgins. “When you don’t locate your pitches at this level, hitters are pretty good (and) they’re going to do something with it.”

A two-out RBI double plated the first run for Washington in the top of the first inning off ASU freshman starter Brady Corrigan.

After Higgins relieved Corrigan, he surrendered a two-run homer on the first pitch he threw, increasing the Huskies lead to 4-0. The Huskies added two more runs in the fourth and led 6-0.

 Freshman left fielder Hunter Jump then responded with his first career collegiate home run in the bottom of the fourth, cutting the Sun Devils deficit to 6-2.

After both teams traded zeros in the fifth and sixth innings, junior Sam Romero walked three batters in the seventh and the Huskies added another run, making the score 7-2.

ASU responded in the bottom of the seventh with a run on a sacrifice fly, but the Huskies still led 7-3. 

Bullpen Struggles 

Entering the series, Sun Devil relievers had a 5.54 ERA in 162 innings of work. The bullpen kept the Huskies off the scoreboard in game one, but Higgins and Romero gave up four combined runs on Saturday, and the game fell out of reach.

“Our job now is we continue to develop not only the rest of this season, but as we move forward program-wise is making sure that problem gets fixed and that we find a core of 8 to 10 guys that you know what you’re going to get,” Smith said.

Offense Can't Find Holes

It is hard for any offense to fight back from a big early deficit, and ASU never came close.

The Sun Devils finished with 12 hits, but only three were extra base knocks. ASU couldn't string hits together, and on several occasions hit the ball hard with runners on base, but in Smith’s words, they “could not find the green grass.”

“Offensively, that’s the only thing you can control is whether you have a good at-bat or whether you hit the ball hard,” Smith said. “I thought, from that perspective, we hit a lot of baseballs hard tonight. Our problem was not our offense, I can certainly tell you that.”

Everybody Jump

Freshman outfielder Hunter Jump stayed red hot at the plate on Saturday.With his two hits in the game, Jump raised his average to .387.

Since becoming a regular in the starting lineup two weeks ago, Jump leads the team in average (.481) and RBIs (10) in six games. Jump also had six hits in nine at-bats with runners in scoring position, including four two-out RBIs. During this stretch, he has collected three or more hits.

“His power will come as he develops as a hitter,” Smith said. “It’s good to see him get that first one out of the way. What I love about him is just the competitiveness in the box, and that’s why he finds himself in there because he’s going to compete every pitch (in) every at-bat, and his results I think are reflecting that.”

What's Next for ASU

The Sun Devils will close out the series against the Huskies on Sunday, May 6 at 12:30 p.m.

Reach the reporter at jpjacqu1@asu.edu 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.