Luke Keaschall notched the go-ahead two-run homer in the seventh off of Oregon closer and former teammate Josh Mollerus – who had given up just four total runs this season before getting tagged by four from the Devils this afternoon.
Luke Hill posted three RBIs, including a two-run shot in the sixth that ended the no-hitter. Nu’u Contrades had a massive two-run insurance bomb in the top of the ninth inning and Jacob Tobias homered for the fourth straight game.
The Sun Devil pitchers held a potent Oregon offense – which had scored 27 runs in the first game of the series – to just three earned runs on the afternoon. ASU got 5.0 solid innings from starter Ross Dunn with just three earned runs allowed. Owen Stevenson was massive in middle relief, tossing 3.0 innings without allowing an earned run and earning the win while Blake Pivaroff faced the minimum in the ninth for the save.
While the Sun Devils (29-15, 14-6 Pac-12) didn’t come away with the series win in Eugene, it was a pivotal victory in the conference standings, keeping itself 1.5 games up on the Ducks and just a half game behind Stanford for first in the league and welcoming the Cardinal to Phoenix next weekend.
Things looked bleak for the Sun Devils in the first half of the contest, falling into a 5-0 hole and being no-hit through 5.1 innings of action with a Oregon sweep looking very much on the table. Luke Hill jump-started the offense in a loud way, breaking up a no-hitter with his two-run shot in the fifth inning to get ASU on the board. Nu’u Contrades notched a sac fly in the frame to get ASU back within 5-3, but the Sun Devils would strand the bases loaded before it could draw even.
The Sun Devil offense didn’t take its foot off the gas in the seven inning with Wyatt Crenshaw reaching on a one-out single scoring on Luke Hill’s RBI double to get ASU back within a run. Oregon went to its standout closer Josh Mollerus, who was second in the Pac-12 with seven saves this season and had allowed just four total runs in 17 appearances entering the afternoon with a sub-2.50 ERA. A foul out for the second out of the inning moved the tying run 90 feet from home but Luke Keaschall had larger ambitions. Keaschall who spent the last couple season with Mollerus at San Francisco showed that he had the best scouting report of anyone as he launched a missile over the left field wall for the go-ahead two-run shot. Jacob Tobias followed with a tank to the deepest part of the ball park off the batters eye and ASU came out of the frame with a 7-5 lead.
Oregon immediately answered with a flurry of runners in the bottom half of the inning and poking one across on a Keaschall two-out error to draw back within a run. The Ducks tried to keep the pressure on and made an attempt to steal home but Owen Stevenson calmly made the throw to the plate and Bronson Balholm got the tag down on a play that stood after video review, ending the inning and keeping ASU on top.
After both teams posted scoreless eighth innings, the Sun Devils looked for some insurance in the ninth. With two outs, Mollerus pitched around Tobias in what looked to be an unintentional intentional walk and Nu’u Contrades made him pay by giving one a ride to opposite right center to extend the lead to 9-6. Stevenson’s day came to an end after 3.0 innings without allowing an earned run but Blake Pivaroff entered and walked to nine-hole hitter to turn things around to te potent top of the order. But Oregon’s Rikuu Nishida – who ASU seemingly could not get out the entire weekend – ground into a double play and Pivaroff got a the final out of the game via strikeout to take the series finale.
The Sun Devils will host a massive series in Phoenix this weekend with a three-game set against a Top-10 Stanford Cardinal team that will enter the weekend with a half-game lead over the Sun Devils for first in the Pac-12. The series will get underway Friday at 6:30 p.m. AZT at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. The series will be available via the ASU Live Stream.
Press Release courtesy of Sun Devil Athletics – Jeremy Hawkes