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Fueled by New Focus, ASU Rebounds vs. Ohio State

PHOENIX - Ohio State, despite poor offensive production entering the series, shook ASU to their core in the series opener Thursday night 11-4. What had many people confused was the absence of Arizona State’s potent bats that they had seen last weekend. The only player to collect more than one hit was Steven Ondina in the nine hole. If ASU wanted to bounce back in Game 2, they would need to assert their dominance at the dish.

The sophomore starter Ben Jacobs saw the most success in Game 1. Prior to a three-run hiccup in the fifth inning, Jacobs had shoved four innings of shutout baseball whilst striking out seven. Things started to go south when the bullpen began surrendering runs in the late stages, a common theme of the bullpen so far. Jonah Giblin, Josh Butler and Rohan Lattow would collectively toss two and a third innings, allowing eight runs on seven hits, four of which were for extra bases. If the offense can’t score 10 everyday, the bullpen will have to pull a little more weight.

Thankfully, the offense would get things going quicker in Game 2. In the bottom of the second, Isaiah Jackson would unload on his team-leading fourth home run of the season. Jackson had eight homers all of last year, and through five games he’s already halfway there. Right fielder Kien Vu would muster an RBI of his own on a run scoring error by the Ohio State second baseman Tyler Pettorini. Finally, back-to-back RBI singles from Brandon Compton and Ryan Campos would be the icing on the cake, giving ASU an early 4-1 lead. 

But that would just be the beginning of the Sun Devil slugfest. From the fourth inning on, ASU would score at least one run each inning, including a three-run sixth and a four-run seventh. The big hits came from Jacob Tobias, who swatted a mammoth two-run homer in the sixth and a two-run single in the seventh. Tobias, who had noted a lack of focus in Thursday’s loss, certainly appeared locked in at the plate.

Overall, five Sun Devils would tally more than one hit Friday night, with two players (Harris Williams and Brandon Compton) amassing more than two. For Brandon, the ability to shine at the plate over spot starts has been the result of a sound routine. “Trust the process, get your work in, get your cage routine in and when you get in the game just go up there and hit. That’s what you’re there to do, so go in there and swing,” Compton said. 

The freshman Thomas Burns got the ball for his second start of the season, and despite allowing two home runs Burns would put up an exceptional performance. Burns would end the day after four and a third, surrendering two runs on four hits whilst striking out eight. Burns has certainly impressed everyone on the coaching staff, a testament of the hard work the young ace has put into the offseason. 

But what’s more impressive than Thomas Burns’s start was the bullpens' contributions in the later stages. Led by Matt Cornelius and Wyatt Halvorson, the bullpen threw four and two thirds innings whilst allowing only two runs on two hits and striking out nine. The bullpen has been an issue for ASU throughout the early season, but a turnaround tonight shows changes heading in the right direction. 

Putting aside Thursday’s loss, the talent that ASU possesses is nothing short of extraordinary. But the ability to hone in and maintain focus is certainly what makes Willie Bloomquist's job interesting. “You try not to ride them too hard, but you gotta ride them enough to where they’re locked in. That’s the challenge of dealing with 18- to 22-year-old kids, you don’t wanna lose them but you gotta keep them sharp at the same time. A couple of them had some fun with me in batting practice, they said ‘Coach, why are you so pissed off?’. Get us a win and I won’t be so d*mn pissed!” Bloomquist joked in the postgame presser. 

The Sun Devils would finish off Ohio State 14-4, a team effort victory that encapsulated the best hitting and pitching production of the season so far. But as players and coaches have preached, Ohio State will not go down without a fight. Arizona State will look to stifle their chances Saturday with Connor Markl on the mound. 

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