ASU drops series finale to Bethune-Cookman

ASU pitcher Alex Backford

ASU drops series finale to Bethune-Cookman After a slow start and spotting the Wildcats five runs, ASU staged a late rally that ultimately fell short and denied them a sweep. On Sunday afternoon, the Sun Devils (2-1) drop the final game of their three-game series against Bethune-Cookman (1-2) 7-6.

Matters got rough for the Sun Devils in the top of the second as the game's starter, right-hander Darin Gillies, had a forgettable outing. The sophomore faced a rough second inning. Five walks and two wild pitches later, Gillies was pulled with no outs in the inning and bases loaded. Senior Alex Blackford came in to relieve Gillies. By the end of the second, five Wildcat runs were scored on one hit.

The Sun Devils got their chance in the bottom of the inning. The lone run of the inning came when Drew Stankiewicz doubled in Rouric Bridgewater.

Blackford was back in the third and allowed one Wildcat run on a sacrifice hit to center. ASU scored a run of their own in the bottom of the inning thanks to a James McDonald double, scoring Casey Koffman.

In the fourth, Blackford was solid, pitching a three-up, three-down inning. The Sun Devil offense struck again in the bottom of the fourth as Bridgewater and Stankiewicz both hit singles. Michael Benjamin got a single of his own, scoring both Bridgewater and Stankiewicz, and ASU cut down the deficit to 6-4.

Freshman Brett Lilek relieved Blackford in the sixth. The lefty was coming off an impressive first appearance Friday night. Lilek allowed one run on one hit in the inning. The Sun Devils went three-up, three-down in their half of the sixth, leaving the score 7-4.

Lilek was back in the seventh, allowing no runs and no hits. ASU showed they had some fight left in them in the bottom of the inning. Benjamin led off the inning getting hit by a pitch. After a Coffman grounder, Trever Allen reached on an error. That caused the Wildcats to switch pitchers. Rossiter doubled to right, scoring both Benjamin and Allen. The Sun Devils had cut the Bethune-Cookman lead to one.

The eighth was quiet for both dugouts, but freshman Johnny Sewald, who was making his first career start at center field, notched his first Sun Devil hit.

Matt Dunbar took the mound for ASU in the ninth. The closer was lights out. Dunbar allowed no runs and no hits, giving his team a chance at a comeback. Senior catcher Max Rossiter hit a single in the bottom of the inning, putting the tying run on base. Kyle Bilbrey entered the game, running for Rossiter. With two outs in the inning, designated hitter Nathaniel Causey hit a single, but Bilbrey was thrown out at third, ending the game.

Bethune-Cookman starting pitcher right-hander Scott Garner (1-0) earned the win and right-hander Jordan Dailey recorded the save. Gillies (0-1) got the loss.

The Sun Devils travel to Knoxville, Tennessee next weekend to take on the Tennessee Volunteers in a non-conference road series. Blackford thinks the absence of mid-week games will help the Sun Devils prepare for their SEC opponent.

"We really need to sure up all the freebies, all the walks, errors, hit-by-pitches, and wild pitches," Blackford admitted." All that stuff has got to sure up. That's usually our forte. We've always played ‘Don't walk people. Don't make errors.' That's always the best part about our team so we're going to work on that all week, I'm sure."

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