ASU loses to Clemson in teams' College World Series opener
Editor's Note: This article first ran in the statepress.com.
The sun finally began to shine over Rosenblatt Stadium on Monday, but it was a cloudy day for the ASU baseball team.
The Sun Devils, the No. 1 seed in the College World Series, couldn’t overcome a poor outing from junior starter Seth Blair and fell to Clemson, 6-3, in the tournament opener for both teams.
ASU falls to the loser bracket where it will take on South Carolina at 3:30 p.m. (1:30 in Arizona) on Tuesday in an elimination contest.
After a long day of rain pushed the game back 16 hours, the Sun Devils started the game flat, and the struggles began on the mound. Blair had great difficulty finding his control, tying a career high with five walks.
After getting out of a bases loaded jam in the first inning on an unassisted double play by freshman shortstop Deven Marrero, Blair surrendered three singles, a pair of walks and a balk in the second as Clemson jumped to a 2-0 lead.
“He just didn’t pound the zone,” Esmay said of Blair. “This time of the year, whether it’s Clemson or Arkansas, if you’re down in the count, their offense has done some things to get here, and you can’t keep pitching from behind, behind, behind.”
Blair seemed to find his groove in the middle stages of the game, retiring six straight in the third and fourth innings to keep ASU in the contest.
But Clemson, which tallied 14 hits that were all singles, continued to drive up the right-hander’s pitch count — Blair left after 4 1/3 innings and 110 pitches — and used three straight RBI singles in the fifth to jump to a 5-1 lead. One of the run-scoring singles came on a lazy fly ball to left that sophomore Drew Maggi lost in the sun.
“I thought Clemson did a very good job of staying patient and making [Blair] pitch,” Esmay said.
At the plate, ASU didn’t provide much support for the embattled starter, squandering several golden opportunities to put a dent in the scoreboard.
The best chance came in the seventh, when the Sun Devils, trailing 6-2, loaded the bases with no outs and chased Clemson starter Casey Harman, who was effective in allowing three runs on seven hits in six-plus innings.
But after sophomore Austin Barnes was retired on a shallow pop fly to center and Maggi brought in a run with a ground out, Clemson reliever Alex Frederick struck out Pac-10 Player of the Year Zack MacPhee to end ASU’s best chance of closing the gap.
“We had opportunities and we were still in the ballgame,” Esmay said.
“In that seventh inning with the bases loaded, nobody out, we want don’t want one [run] there. We want three or four because we had been climbing uphill and that would’ve put the pressure back in their dugout. That was a big turning point.”
Senior captain Raoul Torrez almost single handedly got ASU on the board in the third. After legging out a double on a base hit to left and advancing to third on a wild pitch, Torrez slid in just under the tag at home on a sacrifice fly by Barnes.
His younger brother, Riccio Torrez, brought in ASU’s second run on an RBI single in the sixth that extended the sophomore’s hitting streak to 26 games.
“We’re a good team and we just played poorly today,” said Raoul Torrez, who also made a number of fine defensive plays at third base. “For as poorly as we played, we were still in the game. We still had opportunities.”
Junior Merrill Kelly (10-2, 3.57) will start for ASUagainst South Carolina on Tuesday.
By Nick Kosmider