EUGENE, Ore. – Although it came away with just one victory in its series at Oregon, the Arizona State baseball team is ready to shift its focus to the future.
Before the weekend, ASU had split or won every conference series this season and was one of just five Power Five college baseball teams to do so. That changed at PK Park, where the Sun Devils lost 11-5 and 16-10 before winning Sunday 9-6.
Pitching woes continued for the Sun Devils, who gave up 33 runs in the three-game series. They have not earned a quality start since Khristian Curtis’s outing April 8 against Washington State.
“Previous to this, we were giving up free bases, and today, they just took it to us,” ASU pitching coach Sam Peraza said after Saturday’s 16-10 loss. “There wasn’t one single swing-and-miss off of Curtis’s fastball, and that’s usually not what happens. Every single fastball that he threw was put in play.”
Although the series didn’t go as the Sun Devils had hoped, strong postseason hopes are still in play. With Stanford’s series win over UCLA, ASU now sits half a game behind first in the Pac-12 standings at 14-6 in conference and 29-15 overall. In Monday’s latest D1Baseball rankings, ASU fell three spots to No. 20, while its next opponent Stanford moved up one spot to No. 7. The Sun Devils will host the Cardinal Friday through Sunday at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
“It couldn’t come at a better time that we have a couple of days off to get healthy and rest some of these arms,” ASU coach Willie Bloomquist said Sunday. “Now that this series is over, we’ll have a chance to go home, watch some video on them and come up with a game plan.”
D1Baseball projected ASU as the second-seed in the Gainesville regional on April 28, but there remains a realistic path to hosting a regional for the first time since moving to Muni in 2015. The Sun Devils would need to win four of their next six and avoid sweeps against No. 7 Stanford and USC.
“It’s all going to come down to how well we pitch,” Stevenson said. “The offense is super strong and if we can play at home, that’s our ultimate goal. It’s going to be tough but we know what we have to do.”
In the Oregon series, ASU faced a deficit of five runs or more by the fourth inning of every game due to pitching struggles to pound the zone and throw strikes. Additionally, the staff was challenged as a whole to close innings in two-out situations. Nineteen of Oregon’s 33 runs were scored with two outs. But Sunday, the Devils were able to fight back and overcome a 5-0 deficit, putting up seven runs on six hits in the sixth and seventh innings.
“Oregon has a really good team and that’s probably the most complete team we’ve played,” Bloomquist said. “We didn’t play great the first couple days and started off today a little slow, but ultimately to come back and beat that team was big.”
ASU right-handed reliever Owen Stevenson added, “This weekend was huge for us. I think we came together a lot more and that’s something we stressed yesterday after the loss. It was huge to win today (because) it shows the grit of this team and the heart that we have.”
Stevenson provided three strong relief innings on Sunday, allowing only one hit and one run, as the offense provided the power to come through on top.
Six different Sun Devils earned home runs in the series. four of which were crucial in ASU’s 9-6 win in Sunday’s finale. First baseman Jacob Tobias, right fielder Nick McLain and second baseman Luke Keaschall each had three home runs against the Ducks with Keaschall and McLain providing multiple home runs on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
“We didn’t play great the first couple days and started off today a little slow, but ultimately to come back and beat that team was big,” Bloomquist said. “Oregon has a really good team and that’s probably the most complete team we’ve played.”
The Ducks exhibited a strong offensive showing with nine home runs, partly due to the warmer weather in Eugene all weekend, which saw sunny skies and temperatures at or above 78 degrees in the first two contests.
First pitch against the Cardinal will be at 6:30 p.m. MST on Friday and Saturday, followed by an afternoon matinee on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.