By: Brian Kreps – Contributing Writer
May 16, 2016
TUCSON, Ariz. – There was a lot riding on Arizona State’s Sunday afternoon matchup against Arizona with a chance at a series win , a Territorial Cup series win, a chance to extend its Territorial Cup series lead and to keep pace with Pac-12 leaders Utah and Washington, who both won on Sunday. And it was senior Jordan Aboites, who had never started a Pac-12 game in his career, who was tabbed with the start.
Aboites didn’t seem fazed by the pressure, or the afternoon sun, pitching five shutout innings, and giving up just three hits before junior Eder Erives pitched the final four innings to help the Sun Devils to a 5-1 win at Hi Corbett Field in from of 3,648 fans in attendance.
“(It was) definitely special. A start against anyone, you want to get the win, especially in a series like this. Very exciting being against U of A, that tops it off even more,” Aboites said of his start. “Getting ahead with the slider was big. It’s been big in all my starts. Definitely establishing that early in the count, and being able to go in and out was huge throwing it for strikes.”
Smith added that he got exactly what he expected from Aboites…and more.
“The wind is blowing in, so we know it was gonna be a tough day to score. If you throw strikes, you got a pretty good chance to win today. He was phenomenal today.” Arizona State head coach Tracy Smith said. “I said to the guys, that game is exactly what we’re doing. It’s not real pretty. It’s a little crazy. It’s a little different, but we’re finding ways to win, and last I checked that’s all that matters.”
Smith knew that today’s game was about more than just beating a rival.
“The win keeps us in the hunt. We needed that today just to stay in the hunt with Washington and Utah winning today,” Smith said. “That’s nice to get that (Territorial Cup). We knew we had our hands full coming down here. They have been playing really well. To get two at their place is rewarding and our guys are really happy about that.”
Arizona State (31-17, 13-11 in Pac-12) scored a single run the sixth inning on a double play ball off the bat of junior Colby Woodmansee for the first score of the game.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Aboites was replaced after facing one batter, senior Zach Gibbons, who walked. Erives came in relief, giving up one run and one hit over the final four innings to earn his eighth save of the season.
“Eder coming in and doing what he did today. It wasn’t his best stuff, but I thought that was one of his most gutsiest performance while he’s been with ASU at least that I have seen,” Smith said.
Aside from his performance on the hill, Erives will remember this game for another reason – he took his first hacks at the plate, getting his first hit, his first RBI and his first run scored.
“We needed it at that point. He’s an athletic kid. He’s also competitive. He said ‘I’m from Texas. I can hit.’ Credit him for putting a pretty good swing on that,” Smith said.
The Sun Devils broke the game open in the seventh scoring four runs. Aboites, who went from the mound to second base, singled passed the shortstop, and advanced to second base on a single by sophomore Andrew Snow. After a strike out, Erives singled to left in his first career ASU at bat, driving in Aboites and advancing Snow to third. Freshman Gage Canning, already with a triple and double on the day, blasted another double, scoring Snow and advancing Erives to third. Junior David Greer was walked intentionally before Woodmansee struck out for the second out of the inning. Sophomore Andrew Shaps then puts the nail in the coffin with a single, scoring Canning and Erives to build the lead to 5-0.
Arizona (32-18, 15-11 in Pac-12) finally got on the board with one run in the eighth. But, it could have been more if not for the play of Aboites at second base. With runners on first and second, JJ Matijevic hit a grounder that appeared destined for the outfield. But, Aboites snagged the ball and got the out at first.
I don’t know if anybody else makes that play in the eighth. It was like we need an out. I told him that was probably the biggest play of the game,” Smith said.
Canning paced the way for the Sun Devils, going 3-for-5, with one RBI and two runs scored.
“He’s becoming a threat in the batter’s box. He’s seeing the ball well right now,” Smith said. “With Gage up there, with his speed, we’re more of a threat as a team offensively when that’s happening with him. He’s settling in pretty nicely in that leadoff spot.”
The Wildcats only managed four hits, but tallied five walks. Junior Kevin Ginkel threw six innings, allowing three runs on seven hits. Senior Cody Ramer scored the only run in the eighth on a double by senior Ryan Aguilar.
Next: The Sun Devils travel to San Diego to take on the Toreros on Wednesday night at 6 p.m. PDT.