ASU baseball’s ninth-inning rally comes up just short

TEMPE, Ariz. — The 24th-ranked Arizona State baseball team had the tying run on second base in the ninth inning but came up short in a 6-5 loss to No. 19 Tennessee on Saturday night in front of 2,859 fans at Packard Stadium.

The Sun Devils (7-5) trailed 6-4 going into the bottom of the ninth, but a walk, a bunt single and a fielding error by Tennessee allowed a run to score and put the potential game-tying run just two bases away.

Redshirt senior pinch hitter Kyle Bilbrey took a four-pitch walk with one out in the ninth inning, and redshirt junior right fielder Trever Allen followed with a bunt single. Allen was tagged out at second on sophomore catcher R.J. Ybarra’s grounder up the middle in the next at-bat, but Tennessee second baseman Will Maddox threw the ball away in an attempt to turn the double play, which allowed Bilbrey to score and Ybarra to advance to second. That brought junior designated hitter Nate Causey to the plate with two outs and ASU trailing 6-5, but he flied out to left field to end the game.

Starting left-hander Ryan Kellogg (1-2) took the loss after he allowed three runs on eight hits and struck out five in seven innings of work. He did not issue a walk for the eighth time in his career, including the second this season.

Causey scored two runs off a pair of leadoff doubles, once in the second and again in the eighth, and four other Devils tallied a pair of hits as ASU out-hit the Volunteers (13-1) 13-11 in the loss.

The Sun Devils took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning behind a leadoff double by Causey and an RBI single by sopohomore first baseman David Graybill.

The Volunteers countered with a pair of runs in the top of the fourth to take its first lead of the series, 2-1. Designated hitter Nick Senzel’s RBI single capped off three straight base hits for UT and an RBI groundout by center fielder Vincent Jackson scored the second run of the inning.

An RBI double by sophomore shortstop Jordan Aboites and an RBI single by sophomore center fielder Johnny Sewald put the Devils back on top, 3-2, in the bottom of the fifth. Redshirt junior second baseman Tucker Esmay reached on a fielder’s choice and scored from first in the next at-bat on Aboites’ double to left-center field, and Sewald followed with a base hit up the middle to bring Aboites home.

Tennessee went ahead, 5-3, in the top of the seventh as they notched three runs on a trio of two-out hits and three Sun Devil errors. An RBI double by third baseman Taylor Smart knotted the game at three runs apiece before fielding errors by Esmay and Aboites brought home two more runs.

Left fielder Christian Stewart tripled in the top of the eighth and scored two batters later on an RBI double by first baseman Nathaniel Maggio to extend the Vols’ advantage, 6-3.

Sophomore third baseman Dalton DiNatale cut ASU’s deficit to two, 6-4, in the bottom of the eighth with an RBI single that scored Causey, who began the inning with a double. The Devils then brought the tying run to the plate three times, but a pair of strikeouts and a fielder’s choice ended their scoring threat.

Freshman right-hander Eder Erives pitched the eighth and ninth innings for ASU and struck out a career-high four as he conceded one run on three hits.

Right-hander Hunter Martin (2-0) earned the win after he scattered three hits across 2 2/3 scoreless innings and left-hander Drake Owenby (4) recorded the three-out save.

Tennessee starting right-hander Andrew Lee allowed three runs on seven hits and two walks over 4 1/3 innings in a no-decision.