No. 8 ASU baseball strung together a five-run sixth inning to break away from Fresno State in their 9-4 win Saturday night at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
After allowing Fresno State to tie the game at four in the top of the sixth, ASU jumped on Fresno State's pitching in the next half inning to score five runs, all with two outs in the frame.
Junior right fielder Hunter Jump began the flurry, as he notched an RBI single to score junior shortstop Alika Williams after he and junior first baseman Spencer Torkelson singled.
Junior third baseman Gage Workman came up next and hit a grounder to the shortstop, only for him to have it pass through his legs, allowing Torkelson to score.
Freshman second baseman Nathan Baez succeeded Workman's at-bat with a three-run home run to left field to blow the gates open for ASU.
"My approach is I just want to hit the ball hard," Baez said. "My at-bats prior I was a little late. In my head, I was just thinking, 'I just need to be on time.'"
However, it was the Bulldogs that struck first, scoring on a home run from junior catcher Zach Presno with two outs in the top of the first inning.
The Sun Devils immediately responded in the next half inning. After Torkleson drew a walk, Jump came up two batters later to hit a two-run home run that just cleared the left-center wall.
Jump struck once again in the bottom of the third by lofting an RBI double into left-center field after junior left fielder Trevor Hauver was hit by a pitch to start the half inning.
"It's just more of our approaches," Jump said. "It's more of just confidence. I think the bats are really starting to get together."
Workman immediately drove in Jump, singling through the middle of the infield to increase ASU's lead to 4-1.
Fresno State fought back in the top of the fifth, with two runners on base with two outs. Junior designated hitter Emilio Nogales singled through the right side of the infield to score both runners, cutting ASU's lead to one.
After sophomore right-hander Tyler Thornton was relieved in the top of the sixth after allowing a single and a walk, freshman right-hander Bryce Barnett allowed an RBI single into left field to allow the Bulldogs to tie the game.
Barnett threw 3.2 scoreless frames, allowing one hit, and he earned the win.
"Just throwing strikes," Barnett said when asked about what worked in his time on the mound. "Being able to pitch with the lead is nice."
Thornton struck out four batters in 5.1 innings pitched while allowing seven hits and four runs.
The game was underlined with associate head coach Ben Greenspan managing the game for ASU, as head coach Tracy Smith was suspended for an ejection that was served in Friday night's game.
"Anytime a head coach isn't in the dugout, there's a little change in the dynamic," Greenspan said. "Guys handled it well. Guys were mature in the dugout. I don't think it changed a whole bunch."
ASU will finish its three-game series against Fresno State Sunday 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.