ASU baseball struggled to produce offense in loses to Villanova and No. 8 Michigan in a doubleheader on Saturday.
The Sun Devils totaled just eight hits and one run across the two games.
ASU (1-1) left 11 total runners on base, including a loaded set in the bottom of the ninth, and dropped its first game of the season to Villanova (1-1) 2-1 on Saturday afternoon.
Down one with two outs in the final half inning, redshirt junior catcher Sam Ferri singled to center field and junior outfielder Hunter Jump drew a walk. Villanova elected to intentionally walk junior first baseman Spencer Torkelson to load the bases and bring up junior left fielder Trevor Hauver.
Hauver drew a 3-2 count, but struck out swinging to end the game.
The game began again as a pitcher's duel before the first run was given up by junior right-hand pitcher Boyd Vander Kooi, as he loaded the bases without recording an out to begin the sixth. Villanova capitalized, as sophomore third baseman Nick Lorusso drove in a run with a fielder's choice to the shortstop.
The Wildcats drove in one more run after Torkelson turned a inning-ending double play, but Wildcat junior center fielder Chris Rotondo was called safe at home before the second out was recorded.
Torkelson came up to bat to start the bottom half of the sixth inning and immediately got a run back, blasting his second home run of the season to left-center field.
ASU put two more runners on the corners with two outs in the half inning, but junior shortstop Drew Swift struck out looking and stranded the potential tying run in scoring position.
Wildcat freshman left-hander Danny Wilkinson threw 3.2 scoreless innings while recording five strikeouts and the save.
Villanova sophomore right-hander Gordon Graceffo threw 5.1 innings, not allowing a run through his first five innings of work. He struck out one batter while just allowing two hits in his time on the mound.
Vander Kooi pitched 7.2 innings, also throwing five scoreless innings. He compiled five strikeouts while giving up six hits and two runs, one being unearned.
Despite the loss, Vander Kooi felt good about his performance, believing the strategy to attack opposing batters will eventually lead to wins.
"Our game plan was to fill up the strike zone, let them get themselves out," Vander Kooi said. "I think we've done a pretty good job at that."
ASU's bats continued to remain cold in a 5-0 loss to No. 8 Michigan, totaling just five hits in the game.
Michigan redshirt sophomore left fielder Danny Zimmerman took the game into his own hands, accounting for both of the team's first two runs.
His first run came off a towering home run to left field in the top of the third inning. His second came off a double with a runner on first in the top of the fifth. After the hit fell into left field, Hauver bobbled the ball while trying to throw it back to the infield, allowing the runner to score.
Michigan (3-0) came back in the top of the sixth to score another run on an RBI single from senior second baseman Riley Bertram.
The Wolverines poured on two more runs in the top of the ninth with a two-RBI double from senior outfielder Dominic Clementi.
The Sun Devil's best opportunity to score came in the bottom of the fifth, when the team hit their way into runners on second and third with just one out. However, ASU failed to score either runner, as senior catcher Nick Cheema popped up and Swift flew out to end the inning.
The Sun Devils (1-2) only had four at-bats with runners in scoring position in the game, and didn't get a hit in any of those situations.
Redshirt freshman pitcher Steven Hajjar dominated in his first appearance for Michigan, throwing six scoreless innings, striking out seven batters and allowing just three hits.
ASU freshman left-handed pitcher Cooper Benson threw 6.1 innings, allowing three runs, one of which was unearned, on six hits.
In his first collegiate start, Benson felt similarly about his performance as Vander Kooi, saying his approach would eventually lead to wins.
"I think it went good. It just didn't go our way tonight," Benson said. "But, I was proud of the way I pitched, and thought if I do that every time, I'll have a pretty good chance to win every game I go."
Torkelson believes that their woes will only last so long, and hitting into outs is part of the game.
"I just call it baseball," Torkelson said. "No panic. Balls aren't finding holes, not finding gaps. Just a matter of time until they fall."
Head coach Tracy Smith echoed Torkelson's statements about the team's offense, saying, "It's three games in. It's certainly not time to panic," and felt, "confident" in his team's offensive talent.
ASU will finish up its series against Villanova tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. MST at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
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Jeffrey Horst is the digital editor-in-chief of The State Press. He previously served as the publication's sports editor and worked at Cronkite News and ArizonaSports.com.