Arizona State baseball, ranked as high as No. 3 nationally in preseason polls, didn’t unload on Villanova in its season opener Friday night.
Instead, the Sun Devils showed maturity in a tougher than expected first ever meeting vs. the Wildcats, putting up three runs in the seventh inning for a 4-1 win at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
“I don’t think there was a doubt for any second of the game,” said Nick Cheema, who drove in the winning run with a pinch hit single. “We know we have one of the best offenses, defenses pitching staffs in the country. I feel like we’re going to be in every game we play this year.”
The first three innings were a scoreless duel between starting pitchers Justin Fall, making his ASU debut, and Jimmy Kingsbury. Then leading off the Sun Devil fourth, junior Spencer Torkelson hit his 49th career home run, edging closer to school record holder Bob Horner (56).
“It was nice to score first, but I don’t think it changed much,” said Torkelson, who went deep to left field on a hanging slider after striking out in his first at-bat. He walked in the sixth and was intentionally walked in the seventh.
Fall, a junior college transfer from Brookdale Community College (N.J.), threw six scoreless innings, scattering six hits and striking out six. The 6-6 left-hander struck out the side in the fourth after a leadoff single, twice coming back from a 3-0 count to put away a batter.
ASU baseball wins season opener over Villanova
The Republic | azcentral.com
Fall wanted to pitch in the seventh even after throwing 107 pitches. “I knew I wasn’t, but it’s the kind of personality I have,” he said. “I wanted to be out there for our guys, and I feel like I could have got the job done.”
ASU coach Tracy Smith said of Fall: “He was cruising for a little bit then he also had to make some big pitches and pitch of a jam. That was a grow-up moment for him. He didn’t have to use a lot of his off-speed stuff tonight so that will be the next step, but he did exactly what we needed him to do, which was get us deep into that game.”
Instead, Villanova scored a run off reliever Will Levine to pull even before ASU batted around in the bottom of the seventh starting with a leadoff single by Alika Williams. Drew Swift singled with one out followed by Cheema’s hit to left, an infielder RBI hit by Sam Ferri and an RBI groundout by Hunter Jump.
Freshman Graham Osman and junior closer RJ Dabovich finished up on the mound with an inning each. Levine picked up the win and Dabovich had a save.
ASU will play a doubleheader Saturday, against Villanova at noon and No. 8 (Baseball America) Michigan at 6 p.m. The Wolverines won 4-3 Friday over No. 1 Vanderbilt in Scottsdale in a rematch of the 2019 College World Series championship series won by the Commodores.
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