In the first game with fans back at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, Arizona State baseball walked a tightrope Friday night to a 4-3 non-conference win over Utah.
The Utes (1-6) led 2-0 on a third inning home run but left 13 on base and committed two errors in the seventh that allowed ASU (6-2) to escape with a fourth consecutive win.
The Sun Devils pulled even in the fourth on sacrifice fly and ground out RBI then went ahead in the seventh on a pinch hit RBI by Blake Pivaroff and pinch runner Seth Nager advancing and scoring on errors.
Freshman closer Ethan Long worked the final 1 2/3 innings for his third save. He worked out on a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the eighth, getting Trey Clarkson to fly out to short right and a Kai Roberts line out to shortstop.
Murphy started ASU’s seventh with a double to left and scored the tying run. His throw from right in the eighth forced Matt Richardson to return to third and not risk trying to score on Clarkson’s fly.
Highlights of the game
Long inherited runners runners on first and third when he replaced Cam Dennie in the eighth. Jaylon McLaughlin stole second on Long’s second pitch then Jayden Kiernan walked on five pitches.
“I did a little breathing,” after the walk, Long said. “I knew I needed to throw strikes. The defense is so good behind me, we’ll get outs and win this game.”
In the ninth, Long struck out the leadoff batter then came off the mound to catch a high foul pop fly by Vinny Zavolta for the final out, securing ASU’s first series-opening win of the season.
Quotes of the game
“For me, it was growth. It wasn’t the cleanest game on the mound (five ASU pitchers combined for eight walks). That put us in position where we really had to fight out of it. The good part is we fought out of it. We don’t want to be in that kind of thing often. We didn’t do a good job of making them earn it but still found a way to win with good defense and making plays when we needed to. We didn’t get caught up in the emotion and were able to re-center and get the job done when they really needed to.” — ASU coach Tracy Smith
“As long as I do my job, Nate (Baez, first base) and Sam (Ferri, catcher) will pick me up. I got under it and (Joe) Lampe did a good job saying he was going. He’s one of the best communicators.” — Kai Murphy on his throw from right to prevent the tying run from scoring
“I wish they would have sent him. I’ve been a third base coach, that’s a tough call on that shallow fly ball. If they send him, he’s out by 10 feet.” — ASU coach Tracy Smith
“It’s nice to look out there and see people in the seats (attendance was 720 out of 1,800 allowed due to COVID limitations). Guys like playing in front of people. We can turn the volume up a little bit and get a little more noise in the stadium.” — ASU coach Tracy Smith
The series continues with games at 2 p.m. Saturday and 12:30 p.m. Sunday. Erik Tolman is scheduled to start for ASU in game 2 vs. the Utes’ Kyle Robeniol.
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