Undefeated ASU baseball leverages its versatility in series sweep over Xavier

ASU junior outfielder Hunter Bishop's three-run blast helped push the team to its 15th straight win

Players on the No. 23 ASU baseball team (15-0) showed their true colors in "Swiss army knife" fashion to defeat Xavier (5-8) on Sunday, pushing the Sun Devils to an 11-6 series sweep over the Musketeers.  

Freshman designated hitter Erik Tolman, who was on the mound a day prior, went 3-for-3 with an RBI at the plate on Sunday. Junior outfielder Hunter Bishop went 3-for-5 with a home run and five RBIs. Bishop continues to lead the team in home runs, with 8 homers for the season.

When referring to Bishop, coach Tracy Smith said he has matured and has also been the one to lift up struggling teammates. 

"The best part about that is just seeing a guy (Bishop) that's had some ups and downs, and certainly some of the personal things that he's dealing with in his life, to be able to go out and focus on something else for three and a half hours," Smith said. "So kudos for him."

But at the start of the game, things played out differently when Musketeers sophomore outfielder Allbry Major connected first with a home run to right field during the second inning giving the team an early 1-0 lead.

The lead wouldn't last long, as the Sun Devils managed to gain momentum off a hit-by-pitch and walk. Bishop then smacked one clean to left field during the third inning, giving the Sun Devils their first hit and a 3-1 lead.

Tolman's RBI single during the fourth inning and single during the sixth would be crucial for the Sun Devils in not only extending the lead but putting runners in scoring position.  

"When I was here in the cage, I was tweaking a few things here and there with my mechanics," Tolman said. "I felt good, hit off tee a little bit and just my approach was go up there, attack the fastball and when I get two strikes just choke up on my bat and put the ball in play." 

During the fifth inning the Musketeers would respond with two unearned runs off of Sun Devil sophomore starting pitcher RJ Dabovich, making it a 5-3 game. 

While the Sun Devils added a pair of runs during the sixth inning for a 7-3 lead, in the blink of an eye, the Musketeers were in a potential no out, bases loaded situation during the eighth inning.  

After allowing a single and a pair of walks to load the bases, Sun Devil sophomore reliever Brady Corrigan held on and got the team out of the jam with two strikeouts and a routine grounder to end the inning. 

"(Corrigan) was just missing on some balls down," Smith said. "My indicator for me (and) what I'm looking for is the guy still being aggressive." 

Meanwhile, the Sun Devil offense came up big in a four-run eighth inning on Bishop's and junior infielder Carter Aldrete's RBI singles and a bases loaded walk, giving the team its ninth double-digit win.

Dabovich went solid through 6.1 innings, racking up six strikeouts that earned him his fourth straight win.

With every game being just as important as the next, Dabovich said the team has stayed grounded, focusing on each pitch and each at-bat despite players experiencing their own ups and downs.

"This team does an unbelievable job of, even when stuff is not going our way, we kind of rally around each other and pick each other up," Bishop said.  

The Sun Devils fifteenth straight win now puts the team in no man's land with No. 17 North Carolina State as the only two undefeated teams in Division I college baseball. No. 21 Tennessee suffered its first loss on Sunday afternoon.   

ASU will be back at work to welcome New Mexico State (14-3) for one game on Wednesday, March 13 at 6:30 p.m. MST.   

Reach the reporter at Edith.Noriega@asu.edu or follow @Noriega_Edith on Twitter. 

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