SCOTTSDALE – Arizona State baseball may bend, but it doesn’t break. That has been the story all season long, and Thursday proved no different.
In the Pac-12 tournament matinee against Oregon State, ASU took home a 14-10 win at Scottsdale Stadium to keep its NCAA baseball tournament aspirations alive. The Sun Devils entered the game looking to bounce back from Tuesday’s loss and offensive struggles against rival University of Arizona.
“We need to start faster,” ASU coach Willie Bloomquist said after the 12-3 loss. “It always seems to be this or that with us. If we can put it all together, we have a chance to be pretty good.”
Looking to set the tone early, the ASU offense stormed out of the gate to take a 6-1 lead in the top of the fourth inning and brought the defense along with it. Timmy Manning tossed three innings of one-run ball on two hits allowed while striking out six batters in his start.
In the fifth inning, Oregon State drew closer as ASU gave up four runs to tighten the game to 6-5 before the Sun Devils scored eight runs combined in the next three innings to take a 14-5 lead into the eighth inning.
“Timmy threw the ball very well. He came out and gave us what we needed,” Bloomquist said. “Khristian (Curtis) came out throwing the ball decently and then all of a sudden it hit a funk and can’t walk three guys and they all three scored.”
Throughout the game, fans chanted “A-S-U” in the 90-degree sun as players came around third base running for home plate. The team finished with 20 hits, including Luke Keaschall’s home run in the seventh inning, and scored at least two runs in six of nine innings. The offensive explosion came two days after the Sun Devils scored three runs on nine hits against UArizona.
The Sun Devils were led by Keaschall, who finished with four RBIs, and Nu’u Contrades and Bronson Balholm, who each plated three runs. Nick McLain – who finished with two triples and two RBIs – also found his groove at the plate.
“I’ve been struggling a little bit just trying to swing it, swing at strikes,” McLain said. “I didn’t think (OSU) had enough stuff to strike me out at all, but it ended up being a good day.”
To close the game, ASU surrendered five runs over the last two innings but Owen Stevenson shut the door with a strikeout on a 1-2 count.
“We beat some tough teams on the road,” Bloomquist said Thursday. “The games we’ve lost at home against the No. 3 team in the country, we were one pitch away, any one of those three games from potentially winning. These guys have battled back and played hard all year and at times played as good as anybody in the country. That’s our resume put together and that’s all we can do at this point.”
On Monday, the baseball selection committee will announce the 64-team field that will participate in the 2023 NCAA tournament. For now, all ASU can do is wait and see how games play out, and hope that their resume speaks loud enough to earn a berth.