LONG BEACH, Calif. – The Arizona State baseball team picked up their first road win of the season on Sunday, as the Sun Devils took down the Wright State Raiders by a score of 7-2.
Sophomore left-hander Brett Lilek looked to right the ship after the Sun Devils’ disappointing losses to Long Beach State and UC Irvine. He brought his best stuff to Blair Field against the Raiders, tossing six innings of two-hit baseball and giving up three walks while striking out five in his first win of the season.
Arizona State (3-4) stepped up in the scoring department by starting the game with four runs in the top of the first. Right fielder Trever Allen led off with a ground-rule double and advanced to third on a passed ball. He scored after Raiders second baseman Alex Boeri fumbled a David Greer grounder. Boeri muffed the next ball he saw from Joey Bielek, putting Sun Devils on first and second. After designated hitter RJ Ybarra flied to right, moving Greer to third, first baseman Dalton DiNatale doubled down the right-field line, clearing the bases and making the score 3-0. DiNatale came around to score on the Raiders’ third error of the inning.
The only two runs Lilek allowed came in the bottom of the third when Wright State (2-4) loaded the bases with one out. Lilek walked right fielder Michael Timm, putting the Raiders on the scoreboard. The next batter, first baseman Andrew McCafferty, grounded out to first, which cut the Sun Devils lead to two.
The Sun Devils would get those two runs back in the following frame. Like the Raiders, the Devils loaded the bases with one out. Ybarra hit a sacrifice fly to right field, scoring center fielder Kyle Bilbrey. DiNatale followed with an RBI single that brought Greer around, increasing the score to 6-2. First baseman Joey Bielek almost scored as well, but was thrown out at home to end the inning.
A Nate Causey sacrifice fly to right would score catcher Brian Serven in the top of the ninth, leading to the final score of 7-2.
Attacking the zone repeatedly with his fastball and slider, Lilek was worry-free once his team put up four runs in the first. “With the [run] support, all I had to do was throw strikes,” said Lilek, who was nearly pulled from the game after the fifth inning. Pitching coach Ken Knutson wanted to take the lefty out of the game after 76 pitches, but Lilek objected, leading Knutson to send him back out for the sixth inning.
DiNatale was the Devils’ top offensive performer, going 2-for-4 with three runs batted in. He attributed the win to the team’s big first inning. “That was huge for us to get a big lead in the start because lately, we haven’t really been scoring that many runs,” observed DiNatale. “To get that edge at the beginning was really good for us to get started and get our confidence going.”
Arizona State head coach Tim Esmay trotted out another righty-happy lineup against Raiders left-hander Robby Sexton. Esmay’s starters provided a great mix of hitting and fielding, as each Sun Devil reached base twice and allowed no errors in the field. It was the Devils’ first errorless game since last Saturday against Baylor.
The Sun Devils travel to Surprise next Thursday for the start of the Sanderson Ford College Baseball Classic, a four-game, six-team tournament featuring Santa Clara, Gonzaga, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. First pitch on Thursday is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. MST.