SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — The opening day of NCAA Regional play is one of the most intriguing days of baseball, especially if you like good pitching. Nearly every team throws their ace, making for some fantastic pitching duels.
But what happens when your ace leaves early? That’s what happened to Arizona State on Friday afternoon at Baggett Stadium. Lilek injured his sternum in the first inning trying to make a defensive play and had to leave the game after only 15 pitches.
The Sun Devils (33-23) fell into a 3-0 hole and were never able to recover against Pepperdine’s ace, Corey Miller, as the Waves (40-16) took a 3-2 victory.
With runners on the corners and one out, Lilek induced a chopper to first from Aaron Brown. The Sun Devils tried to turn a 3-6-1 double play, but Drew Stankiewicz’s throw was off line and Lilek dove for the ball. He knocked the throw down, but landed on top of the ball, injuring his sternum. A run scored on the play. Lilek tried to toss a couple of warm-up throws, but jettisoned from the mound in frustration.
Arizona State turned to freshman midweek starter, Seth Martinez, who hadn’t expected to pitch Friday. Martinez got a strikeout to end the first inning, but ran into trouble in the second inning when two walks and a single loaded the bases with two outs for Austin Davidson. Davidson lined a two-run double to put the Waves up 3-0.
From there, Martinez was dominant, retiring the next 16 batters to give the Sun Devils an opportunity to come back. ASU retaliated for one run in the bottom half of the second inning on a Trever Allen homer to left-centerfield.
Allen nearly put the Sun Devils ahead in the fourth inning, launching what would have been a go-ahead two-run homer just outside the left field foul pole. Arizona State did get a run in the inning on a Nathaniel Causey RBI single up the middle to plate Stankiewicz.
Corey Miller allowed just three hits and two earned runs to pick up his ninth victory of the season. He did walk four batters, including a pair in the eighth inning.
With two men on, freshman reliever Chandler Blanchard entered and got a shallow fly to centerfield. He then struck out Jake Peeveyhouse looking on a full-count, back-door curveball. As you can see from the photos in the gallery below, Peevyhouse was irate at the call and let the umpire know his displeasure.
In the ninth inning, Allen grounded a two-out single up the middle, but Pepperdine closer Eric Karch struck out Dalton Dinatale to end the game and collect his 14th save of the season.
The Waves advance to the winner’s bracket game Saturday evening where they await the winner of Cal Poly/Sacramento State at 6 p.m. Arizona State goes into the loser’s bracket and will play an elimination game at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Check out the 14-shot photo gallery from Game 1 of the San Luis Obispo Regional: