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Sun Devil baseball remains hot as ASU defeats Kansas State in 9-6 slugfest

The Sun Devils have scored 47 runs in their first four games of the season, but bullpen struggles persist


ASU senior infielder Steven Ondina (8) batting against Santa Clara at Phoenix Municipal Stadium on Friday, Feb.16, 2024. ASU won 11-6.

Despite allowing a perplexing 12 walks, ASU baseball improved to 3-1 after taking down No. 24 Kansas State in a 9-6 slugfest on Tuesday in Phoenix Municipal Stadium.

Through the team's first four games, pitching remains a lingering issue. While the Sun Devils have scored an exceptional 47 runs across their first four games, tied for 11th in the country, they've allowed opponents a staggering 39 runs, with an ERA at 9.00. They are 232nd in the country so far.

Freshman starting pitcher Adam Behrens allowed three runs across four innings, permitting just one walk and seemingly keeping his control through 76 pitches. 

However, the bullpen was a different story. Upon Behrens' removal from the game before the fifth inning, it took seven relievers to close out the game. Kansas State hitters drew 11 walks across the final five innings.

It took a plethora of clutch moments for the Sun Devils to pull out the victory, including leaving the bases loaded in the seventh off a Matt Cornelius strikeout to keep the game tied at five apiece. Despite a singular wild pitch, Cornelius pitched 1.1 innings, striking out two and ultimately earning his first win of the season.

Ahead 9-6, the Sun Devils found themselves in a bases-loaded jam with two outs. They opted for senior pitcher Matt Tieding, who tossed a strikeout to secure his first save of the season. 

Tieding acknowledged the pressure of the role in tense moments like these. 

"That's why you play baseball, right? It's moments like that," Tieding said. "It wasn't about calming the pressure for me at all. It was about embracing it, just having fun in it. Taking in that whole moment was more of the mentality rather than just trying to calm down." 

An Isaiah Jackson single broke the tie in the seventh, driving in two runs and giving the Sun Devils a lead that they wouldn't give up. Jackson played a big role in Tuesday's game, notching three hits — including a solo home run — en route to three RBIs. In his first four games of the 2024 campaign, Jackson has 13 RBIs, the most of any Sun Devil thus far and tied for third in the nation.

"We don't have to rely on home runs to beat you," head coach Willie Bloomquist said. "We can steal bases, we can play hit and run, go the other way ... Good offenses are dynamic and have more ways to beat you than one, and that's what we're striving to do."

Overall, the Sun Devils smashed 10 hits on the day, a testament to their hot start at the plate. Five Sun Devils — Jackson, Kevin Karstetter, Jacob Tobias, Brandon Compton and Ethan Mendoza — are batting over .400 to open the season. Freshman infielder Mendoza is batting .600 in the first four games

"Obviously, it's nice and fun when you just sit back and hit the long ball, but there's going to be times where you have to manufacture and execute and do things to score runs, and we were able to do that a little bit tonight," Bloomquist said. 

The Sun Devils look to continue their success at the plate, wrapping up their season-opening eight-game homestand on Thursday when they kick off a four-game series against Ohio State.

Edited by Vinny DeAngelis, Sadie Buggle and Shane Brennan

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Aaron SchmidtSports Reporter

Aaron Schmidt is a sports reporter who covers ASU Baseball and ASU Women’s Golf for The State Press. He previously covered Higley High School football for AZPreps365.

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