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ASU baseball takes the opening series in red-hot offensive fashion against Santa Clara

After scoring 38 runs in the series, ASU reflects on series successes at the plate and major struggles on the mound


ASU sophomore infielder Nu’u Contrades (6) at bat against Santa Clara at Phoenix Municipal Stadium on Friday, Feb.16, 2024. ASU won 11-6.

ASU baseball began its 2024 season by taking two out of three games in a battle of the bats against a threatening Santa Clara University team in a series that saw 71 runs scored in three games.

In their season opener on Friday, head coach Willie Bloomquist trusted one of his new arms to lead the charge under the lights. Freshman right-hand pitcher Thomas Burns was the first true freshman to start since 2006, and he didn’t disappoint. 

He ended his first outing with 64 pitches across five innings, tossing seven strikeouts, allowing one solo home run, and pitching one walk on the night. 

“There was a reason we had him on Friday,” Bloomquist said. “As a freshman, he can keep his composure the way he does, change speeds when he needs to, and not get so into a pattern is good. He can change up guys and throw different pitches to keep them off balance. He’s a tough and mentally focused kid.” 

As for the batters box, it wasn't until the second inning that ASU came out swinging, scoring five runs in the bottom of the frame. The biggest hits came from the bats of junior first baseman Jacob Tobias and sophomore center fielder Isaiah Jackson, who mashed their first home runs of the season, with a solo shot from Tobias and a two-run shot from Jackson. 

ASU finished the performance after adding six more runs to the scoresheet to total eleven on the night. Unfortunately, the Broncos didn’t leave without a scare. After a solo homer earlier in the game, Santa Clara scored three more in the eighth and two in the ninth. After the nervous rush for the Sun Devils, they were able to close it out 11-6, winning game one of the three-game series. 

The star player for the first night was Jackson, who went 3-5 and started his season with three hits including his home run, equaling the total he had in his first six games last year. He would show no signs of slowing down his scorching pace.

“I was more confident going into this year,” Jackson said. “With all my work I put into the offseason, I came out trusting myself and understanding that I belong here compared to last year feeling nervous and not knowing what was coming.” 

The next afternoon, game two was yet another slugfest with ASU taking the win, and the series, 14-13. 

Senior left-hander Conner Markl started on the mound and only lasted 3.2 innings, giving up six runs and throwing six strikeouts. The bullpen struggled behind him, allowing seven more runs in the contest. 

“That’s a good hitting team over there,” junior catcher Ryan Campos said. “You gotta give them credit. We’ve made mistakes, and they took advantage every time, and sometimes that's just how it goes. But every time something bad happens, we get right back to it. I have more positives than negatives this weekend.” 

Santa Clara's bullpen didn't fare much better, helping the potent Sun Devil offense back up the bullpen, leading them to a win. 

Most players got in on the action on Saturday, most notably Jackson, who drove in a career-high six RBIs, including another two-shot homer. Sophomore infielder Nu’u Contrades hit the team's first grand slam of the season, along with Tobias’s game-tying solo homer and senior infielder Kevin Karstetter smashing the longest home run of his career, giving ASU the two runs they needed to escape with the one run it needed to survive. 

Wrapping up on Sunday, ASU failed to get the sweep over the Broncos, flipping Saturday's script and losing 14-13 in the back-and-forth series finale. 

Sophomore right-hand pitcher Tyler Meyer struggled to put hitters away, lasting only two and a half innings and giving up four hits with six strikeouts. The bullpen, in similar fashion to the two games before, also couldn’t keep the Broncos' bats down. 

Continuing to stumble on the mound, ASU looks to fix the inconsistency in finishing batters after recording two outs in an inning.

“We just need to work on finishing at-bats and finishing pitches,” Bloomquist said. “We did a good job working ahead of them, but we had a tough time putting them away. We have to figure out ways to try to get weak contact earlier in counts and continue to attack the zone.” 

Campos had his first career multi-run game in Sunday's loss, totaling five RBIs. Redshirt senior outfielder Williams Harris’ added two solo home runs, and freshman infielder Ethan Mendoza’s had a perfect 5-5 game in his debut in the Sun Devils starting nine. 

“It was amazing,” Mendoza said. “I came in today to try and help the team win. Even with the loss, I still feel like not only did I have a great game personally, but so did the rest of the team.”

The Sun Devils look to continue the momentum as they’re set to face Kansas State on Tuesday and Ohio State later this weekend for a four-game series at home.  

 Edited by Vinny DeAngelis, Walker Smith and Shane Brennan

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