March 2, 2012
Surprise, Ariz. - The 11th-ranked Arizona State baseball team, behind a pair of scoreless innings by left-hander Matt Dunbar and a walk-off single by first baseman Abe Ruiz, defeated Northern Illinois 4-3 on Friday at the Coca-Cola Classic in Surprise, Ariz.
Ruiz drove a hard-hit single down the right-field line with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to score second baseman Joey DeMichele from first and send the Sun Devils (7-1) to their third consecutive win.
Dunbar (1-0) earned his first win at ASU after giving up one hit and no runs with four strikeouts in two innings. He took the mound in the eighth and bookended a groundout and a double with a pair of strikeouts to escape the frame unscathed. He recorded consecutive strikeouts to begin the ninth inning before forcing a groundout.
Shortstop Deven Marrero tallied a season-best two RBI, including a solo home run to left field in the fifth inning that gave the Devils a short-lived one-run lead.
ASU right-hander Alex Blackford, in his first start of the season, finished with a no-decision after leaving the game in the middle of the seventh inning with the score knotted at three runs apiece. Blackford went a career-long seven innings and set a new career high with 10 strikeouts, including three straight two separate times, as the Huskies (0-9) brought extra batters to the plate in only two of the innings he pitched.
The Devils jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the second inning when catcher Beau Maggi hit an RBI single up the middle to bring home designated hitter James McDonald, who reached first on a single before stealing second.
After Blackford struck out the first two batters of the third inning, Northern Illinois countered with a pair of runs to gain the 2-1 advantage. Jordan Huffman reached first on a hard-hit single and Jamison Wells moved him to second on a base hit. A walk to the following batter, Alex Jones, loaded the bases for Troy White, who hit a two-run single to right-center field.
ASU evened it up in the bottom of the third frame as leadoff hitter Andrew Aplin doubled down the left-field line and Marrero recorded his first RBI of the game two batters later with a single through the left side.
Blackford got himself out of a jam in the top of the sixth inning with a two-out, bases-loaded strikeout, his eighth of the game, after conceding a game-tying one-run double to Alex Klonowski earlier in the frame.
ASU threatened in the bottom of the eighth with runners on second and third after a passed ball by NIU advanced pinch runner Tucker Esmay, who came in after Maggi was hit by a pitch, and third baseman Michael Benjamin, who reached on a single.
NIU starting left-hander Jake Hermsen, who allowed three runs on eight hits and struck out eight in 7.2 innings pitched, was relieved with one out left in the eighth to take the no-decision.
Right-hander Ben Etcheverry (0-1) earned his first loss of the season after giving up the game-winning run in the ninth.
The Sun Devils play their third game of the Coca-Cola Classic on Saturday against Winthrop University. First pitch is set for 4 p.m. at Surprise Stadium in Surprise, Ariz.