Feb. 9, 2002
MESA, Ariz. -- Sophomore starting pitcher Mike Esposito scattered seven hits and allowed only one run in his first career complete game helping the No. 17 Arizona State Sun Devil baseball team stay undefeated at 6-0 in 2002 with a dominating 8-1 victory over No. 25 Tennessee Saturday afternoon in non-conference college baseball action at Hohokam Stadium.
With the win the Devils now lead the all-time series with the Volunteers 9-1 and have won three straight dating back to last year. The Devils hot start at 6-0 is no mystery under Murphy, but with the level of talent on ASU's schedule, it is quiet impressive. ASU opened the 2001 campaign with a 11-1 record and were 7-0 to start the 2000 Pac-10 Championship season.
Esposito (Las Vegas) was in control throughout the game, improving to 2-0 on the season in his 123-pitch effort. The hard-throwing sophomore struck out three and did not walk a batter in his outing. Esposito continued his mastery over the Volunteers in the last year, combining with his start last year has now allowed only one run and nine hits in 15.0 innings.
"My frame of mind was to go as deep as I could into the game and stay focused and make my pitches," said Esposito who considered the complete game a nice milestone after having Tommy John surgery in 2000. "We put a team game together with the offense controlling the tempo from the beginning of the game and giving us the momentum."
Added eighth-year Sun Devil head coach Pat Murphy on Esposito's performance, "Espo is a big time pitcher and for him to show himself and out team that he wants the ball to finish a game is huge this early in the season. He told me he wanted to finish it and in this case you listen to the player and let him finish the great outing he started."
Adding to Esposito's masterful performance was an offensive showcase by the top of the Sun Devil lineup. The top six hitters in the ASU lineup - Steve Garrabrants, Dustin Pedroia, Rod Allen, Jeremy West, Andre Ethier and Dennis Wyrick combined for 14 of the 15 hits. Garrabrants extended his hitting streak to six games with a pair of hits and his first career home run and Pedroia remains hot at the plate after going 3-for-5 with a double and an RBI. Allen notched a pair of hits and scored two runs and West continued his RBI tear with three more Saturday, bringing his season total 13. Ethier put together the most impressive performance of the day, falling just a home run short of hitting for the cycle.
Arizona State wasted little time jumping ahead of the Volunteers, accomplishing a rare feat by the 1-2-3-4 hitters in the lineup combining to hit for the cycle to account for two runs. Sophomore designated hitter Steve Garrabrants (led off the game with a solo home run to left field on the very first pitch of the game from UT starter Patrick Hicklen (0-2). Freshman second baseman Pedroia (Woodland, Calif.) then followed with a double, sophomore left fielder Allen (Phoenix) singled through the right side of the infield and then sophomore first baseman West (Las Vegas) tripled to right-center field to complete the cycle and stake ASU to the early 2-0 lead.
After Tennessee posted a single tally in the top of the second on a run-scoring single by first baseman Dennis Gomez, the Devils came right back with a run in the bottom of the inning to extend their lead to 3-1. Senior center fielder Jon Sheaffer (Mesa) sparked the rally with a single to left field and came around to score on a single by Pedroia.
With the score held close at 3-1, the Devils broke open the game with five runs in the bottom of the fourth. Five consecutive hits from the top of the order set the table for a two-run double to left field from West and a two-run triple by Ethier to break the game open.
Game Notes: ASU has scored at least one run in the first inning in five of its first six games... the two runs in the first were fueled by ASU's 1-2-3-4 hitters combining to hit for the cycle in consecutive at-bats... Esposito's complete game was the first for a Sun Devil since Jon Switzer last year vs. Oregon State (March 24, 2001)... the team entered the game with a team batting average of .327, but after the 15 hits improved to .345... Garrabrants' home run in the first inning was the first of his career, coming on his 161st career at-bat... Garrabrants is ASU's leading hitter at .480 (12x25)... the Devils slugged two more triples, bringing their season total to six at spacious Hohokam Stadium... the tam had 18 all of last year... ASU has now scored in an NCAA record 381 consecutive games dating back to April 7, 1995... ASU is now 2-0 vs. ranked teams in 2002.
Arizona State 8, Tennessee 1 (Feb 09, 2002 at Mesa, Ariz.) ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Tennessee........... 010 000 000 - 1 7 0 (1-4) Arizona State....... 210 500 00X - 8 15 0 (6-0) ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Pitchers: Tennessee - Hicklen, Massey(4). Arizona State - Esposito. Win-Esposito(2-0) Loss-Hicklen(0-2) T-2:27 A-3251 HR ASU - Garrabrants (1).