‘The curse’ caught up to the ASU baseball team yesterday.
The Sun Devils, making their 11th College World Series appearance in the last 29 years, became the ninth straight No. 1 seed to fail to win the championship. Miami was the last top seed to accomplish that, and that was back at the turn of the century… 2001.
But this year’s squad took it to the next level. They became the first overall No. 1 seed to fail to win a single game.
ASU fell to South Carolina to make it two straight losses and an early exit for the team picked by most people as the favorite to win it all. They lost to Clemson in Monday’s opener, 6-3.
Playing in front of 19,936 people at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, the Sun Devils (52-10) were unable to climb out of a deep 10-0 hole and fell to the Gamecocks in an 11-4 loss that had plenty of Sun Devils on base, but few brought home.
Deven Marrero went 3-for-4 with an RBI to lead the hitting for the Devils, and Austin Barnes and Johnny Ruettiger each had a pair of hits.
But the big guns were all but silent. None of the long balls that ASU has been able to count on all season long.
The Devils just couldn’t get a good handle on USC’s starting pitcher, Sam Dyson, who went 7.1 innings before turning it over to the bullpen. The junior right hander, a fourth-round draft pick, was just 5-5 on the year with a 4.35 ERA. But he was good when it counted.
But the Gamecocks found the groove early at the plate. They used a pair of home runs in the second inning to begin the devastation, and another in the eighth for good measure. Jackie Bradley Jr., the team’s leading hitter, picked up his 13th home run of the year and finished the game with a 3-for-4 night at the plate.
The Sun Devil pitching also suffered another sub-par outing. In the loss to Clemson yesterday morning, ASU went through four pitchers who were tagged for 14 hits. Its No. 1 starter, Seth Blair, gave up 7 hits and five runs before being pulled in the fifth inning.
It didn’t get much better for the second game. The Gamecocks piled up a like number of hits, 14, against Kelly, Mitchell Lambson, and Jordan Swagerty. Both relievers gave up two hits.
It was a disastrous second inning that allowed USC to take command. The Gamecocks scored eight runs on eight hits against Merrill Kelly, who started the game and lasted just two outs into the second inning. During that brief appearance, Kelly allowed 10 hits and eight runs.
RBI singles by Barnes and Drew Maggi enabled the Devils to put a couple of runs on the board in the fifth inning and entertain the idea of a comeback, and then Marrero and Matt Newman each had a run-scoring single for a couple of more runs in the eighth.
But the scattered singles weren’t enough firepower to overcome the huge deficit. They needed a couple of big innings, but the power just wasn’t there.
No. 11-ranked South Carolina (49-16) was expected to give the Devils a good game, but few observers had expected ASU to falter at this point, particularly in a game that wasn’t even close. The Gamecocks will now play either Clemson or Oklahoma in another elimination game Thursday.
This was the first time all year that the Sun Devils had lost two games in a row. It was also the first time since 1993 that ASU has gone 0-2 while playing in the CWS. It was all the more surprising since they were the No. 1 ranked team in college baseball coming into this Series. And favored to win.
That curse is an awesome thing to behold.
(Photo: ASU Athletics)