ASU baseball’s rally comes up just short against USC

TEMPE, Ariz. — The 25th-ranked Arizona State baseball team fell just shy of completing a five-run rally and dropped the series finale against USC 8-7 on Sunday in front of 2,683 fans at Packard Stadium .

The Sun Devils (17-12, 7-5) trailed 8-3 after six innings before sophomore RJ Ybarra capped off a two-out seventh-inning rally with a pinch-hit, bases-clearing double to pull ASU within a pair at 8-6. In the bottom of the eighth, sophomore third baseman Dalton DiNatale hit a solo home run over the right-field fence on the first pitch he faced to lead off the frame, making it a one-run game.

ASU put the tying run on base twice in the final two innings but was unable to bring in the equalizer. Sophomore center fielder Johnny Sewald singled and moved to third on a single by junior first baseman Nate Causey in the eighth, but he was stranded there after an inning-ending groundout. Ybarra reached first on a throwing error with one out in the ninth, but a flyout and an infield popup ended the rally.

The Trojans (15-15, 4-8) notched a pair of runs in each of the first three innings to take an early 6-3 lead, and they added two in the fifth before freshman right-hander Seth Martinez and sophomore right-hander Eric Melbostad combined to hold USC scoreless over the final four innings. Melbostad retired seven consecutive batters in the final third of the game and allowed just one base runner across 2 2/3 innings.

USC scored a pair of unearned runs on three hits and a fielding error by DiNatale to jump ahead 2-0 in the top of the first, but ASU responded with three runs in the bottom of the frame to erase their early deficit. Sewald led off the first with a walk and scored on three wild pitches, and sophomore designated hitter Chris Beall and DiNatale each notched RBI singles to plate redshirt junior right fielder Trever Allen and freshman catcher Brian Serven, who both reached base via walks.

Center fielder Omar Cotto hit an RBI triple and third baseman Kevin Swick followed with a run-scoring double to help USC retake the lead in the second, 4-3. Designated hitter Garrett Stubbs added a two-run single in the third frame and catcher Jeremy Martinez and second baseman Dante Flores each drove in a run in the fifth to stretch their advantage to five.

Causey, junior left fielder Jake Peevyhouse and Serven each hit consecutive two-out singles to load the bases for Ybarra in the eighth inning, who doubled to drive home all three Devils and tally his eighth RBI in the past two games.

Starting junior right-hander Darin Gillies (1-2) was chased with two outs and two runners on base in the top of the third inning. He was responsible for six runs, including four earned, on nine hits and three walks. He struck out four in the loss. Redshirt senior right-hander Zak Miller replaced Gillies in the top of the third and scattered two outs across 1 1/3 innings.

USC right-hander Brooks Kriske (1-0) scattered two hits across 5 2/3 innings to earn his first win of the season, and right-hander Kyle Davis (3) registered a six-out save. Starting right-hander Nigel Nootbaar walked three of the first four batters he faced and threw three wild pitches before he was pulled with runners on the corners and one out in the bottom of the first.