(Phoenux, AZ) Sun Devil Baseball secured a critical win for its NCAA Tournament hopes as freshman Nick McLain blasted a go-ahead solo home run in the eighth inning and the bullpen allowed one hit in 6.2 innings of work en-route to a 2-1 victory.
Arizona State (31-22, 16-13 Pac-12) has now won or drawn seven of its 10 season series in Pac-12 play. ASU will await the result of tonight’s contest in Tucson between USC and Arizona to determine if it is the fourth or fifth seed in the conference tournament, beginning Tuesday at Scottsdale Stadium in Scottsdale, Ariz.
McLain’s go-ahead stroke was his eighth home run of the season and came with two outs and the bases empty. ASU only had three hits, including McLain’s bomb and a solo shot by Ryan Campos in the fourth.
ASU pitching stifled UCLA (27-23-1, 12-16-1 Pac-12) as a whole, striking out five batters and walking none. The Sun Devil bullpen allowed just one hit and the five hits for the Bruins was the second-lowest total for UCLA all season. Khristian Curtis got the start, throwing 2.2 innings of one-run baseball. He made one mistake, a solo home run to right-center field in the second inning, while striking out three and walking none.
Trailing 1-0 in the fourth inning, Campos muscled a solo home run to dead center, knotting the contest at one.
Both bullpens were nearly perfect in the contest, until McLain changed everything with a solo home run to left field, giving ASU the edge it would not relinquish.
Owen Stevenson shut the door with two innings of dynamite closing, striking out one in the eighth and ninth innings for the win.
Khristian Curtis navigated into and out of trouble early, striking out one and recording consecutive line outs after two singles led off the top of the first. The Sun Devils went down in order.
UCLA drew first blood on a two-out solo home run off Khristian Curtis, but that was the only baserunner in the frame for either side.
Curtis got the first two outs before being relieved out of pitch count necessity for the Pac-12 Tournament. He was spelled by Jonah Giblin, who retired the side without difficulty. Bronson Balhom was ASU’s first baserunner as he was hit by a pitch with two outs, but Wyatt Crenshaw flew out.
Giblin retired the side in order. The Bruins went to a new pitcher in the bottom half. With one out, Ryan Campos lifted a solo home run to dead center field, knotting the contest at one heading into the fifth.
After UCLA went down in order in the fifth, the Sun Devils threatened in the home half. Isaiah Jackson and Nu’u Contrades walked, setting up Bronson Balhom’s hit by pitch that loaded the bases. The bottom of the order gave ASU a chance, but the top was stifled as Crenshaw and Nick McLain were unable to get the ball out of the infield.
Nolan Lebamoff entered in the sixth for his final appearance at Phoenix Muni, recording two outs and leaving a runner on second for Blake Pivaroff, who forced a 3-1 putout to end the top of the sixth. The heart of the Sun Devil order – Campos, Luke Keaschall and Jacob Tobias – were dusted aside in the bottom half.
Pivaroff sent the Sun Devils to the seventh inning stretch with a 1-2-3 top half and the Sun Devils obliged in the same manner after the stretch.
Owen Stevenson entered, setting down the Bruins without a hit. In the bottom half, everything changed for Arizona State as McLain belted a solo home run down the left field line with two outs.
Now pitching with a lead, Stevenson set down the Bruins in order to clinch the ball game.
Sun Devil Baseball will await the results of the last regular season Pac-12 game in Tucson between USC and Arizona for the Pac-12 bracket to be finalized.
Press Release courtesy of Sun Devil Athletics – Josh Schwam