TEMPE, Ariz. – Sophomore designated hitter RJ Ybarra led the way with four RBI, but his offense wasn’t able to lift the 24th-ranked Arizona State University baseball team as they fell to No. 19 Tennessee, 6-4, in the series finale on Sunday afternoon in front of 2,609 fans at Packard Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.
Ybarra went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer in the first inning and sophomore center fielder Johnny Sewald reached base four times on two singles and a pair of walks to pace the Sun Devils (7-6).
ASU starting right-hander Darin Gillies allowed three runs on seven hits and struck out a pair in 4 1/3 innings. He retired the side in the first inning, including a three-pitch strikeout to start the game, but was chased with one out and a runner on second in the top of the fifth.
Ybarra knocked a two-run homer to left field in the bottom of the first inning to give the Devils an early 2-0 lead and extend his team-high hitting streak to 10 games. His first home run of the season, and sixth of his career, scored Allen from second after he reached base on a fielder’s choice and advanced on a wild pitch.
The Vols (14-1) countered in the top of the second with an RBI single by first baseman Nathaniel Maggio following a leadoff base hit and a walk. Three hits and a double steal by Tennessee in the next inning put UT ahead by one, 3-2, as designated hitter Nick Senzel tied the game with an RBI single and reached third on a base hit before he stole home to score the go-ahead run.
Sewald took a leadoff walk in the third frame, his second of the game, and stole second base, advanced to third on a fly ball to right field and came home on an RBI groundout by Ybarra to even the score at three runs apiece.
UT went ahead, 6-3, in the top of the sixth and never relinquished its lead. They started the inning with a double, single and a stolen base, and drove both runners home in the next two at-bats on an RBI groundout and a run-scoring single. ASU sophomore right-hander Eric Melbostad was replaced by redshirt freshman left-hander Nick Diamond with one out in the frame, and Diamond hit the first batter he faced to load the bases before walking in the third run of the inning.
ASU cut its deficit to two, 6-4, in the bottom of the seventh on an RBI groundout by Ybarra that plated Sewald, who hit a two-out single and moved to second on a hit batter.
Melbostad (1-1) was responsible for all three runs in the sixth inning and took his first loss of the season. Diamond gave up two hits and one walk in 1 1/3 innings.
Freshman right-hander Hever Bueno took the mound in the eighth inning and conceded just one walk and no hits across a pair of frames. He retired the first three batters he faced in the eighth and induced a double play and a flyout to strand one runner on base in the ninth.
UT left-hander Josh Peterson (1-0) earned his first win of the year with 2 1/3 shutout innings and right-hander Andy Cox (1) registered the save with a pair of scoreless frames. Starting right-hander Kyle Serrano was pulled after three innings and took a no-decision. He conceded three runs on one hit and three walks, and struck out a pair.
Coach Esmay moved to 79-22-1 in non-conference games at ASU…the Devils moved to 14-4 all-time against Tennessee…Coach Esmay moved to 45-37 against ranked teams at ASU…Causey made his first start of the season at first base.
ASU hosts four games at Packard Stadium March 12-16, including a midweek contest against New Mexico on Wednesday, March 12 and a three-game set against Washington over the weekend to open Pac-12 Conference play. First pitch on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday is at 6:30 pm PT and the series finale on Sunday is set for a 12:30 pm PT start. All four games will broadcast on NBC Sports Radio AM 1060 as well as live streamed via Pac-12.com, and links to both the radio broadcast and live stream can be found on the baseball schedule on thesundevils.com.
Ballots for the All-Packard Team are available now on gamedays at Packard Stadium, so be sure to mark your picks for the best to play at Packard Stadium, or visit azcentral.com to vote online
Tip Your Cap To Packard Celebration – 1990-99
Former center fielder and 1991 Golden Spikes Award winner Mike Kelly (1989-91) saw his No. 24 jersey honored prior to the game on Saturday, March 8. Kelly joins 16 other members of the Sun Devil Family on the prestigious Wall of Fame on the outfield of Packard Stadium.
Sun Devil Legend and 11-year Major League veteran Paul Lo Duca (1993) threw the ceremonial first pitch on Friday, March 7.
Dave Brown and Barbara Harshfield, Sun Devil Baseball’s Legacy Supporters from 1990-99, were honored on the field prior to the game on Sunday, March 9
Season tickets starting at $99, single-game tickets and Mini Packs are on sale now. Admission for ASU students is free with a valid Sun Card. Purchasing season tickets will also give fans first opportunity and priority at selecting seats at Phoenix Municipal Stadium in 2015. Ariz.
Join the conversation all season using the hashtag #OccupyPackard