Disaster in the 9th: Sun Devil Baseball Gifts UNLV a 10-9 Win
By Peter Bouloukos,
April 10, 2019 4:26 PM

Baseball is an island of activity surrounded by a sea of statistics. Tuesday night in Lost Wages, Nevada, the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels were gifted six walks, a balk, and a wild pitch to complete a six-run 9th inning victory. For UNLV, it was a huge come-from-behind conquest over the 9th ranked ASU team. If there’s a small weakness in Sun Devil Baseball so far this season, it is untimely wild pitches or hit batters, and walks.  Coach Tracy Smith makes teams beat his Sun Devils.

Arizona State allowed UNLV to load up the bases in the first and second inning on Tuesday night, but the Rebels were not able to capitalize.  The Sun Devil’s had a 3-run third and scored a total of nine runs on nine hits in 30 mile per hour winds. Spencer Torkelson went deep for his third straight game, and the Sun Devils were destined for a “warm-up” win before the true storm begins against Oregon State Friday night.



“There are three things you can do in a baseball game. You can win, or you can lose, or it can rain. -Casey Stengel

Instead of rain in the 8th, perhaps it was the 60 mile per hour gusts of wind combined with some disastrous pitching that led to ASU’s demise in the 9th.  The wheels came off, and UNLV rallied from a five-run deficit to upset the Sun Devils 10-9.  The Rebels (20-15) can score, run the bases, and are an opportunistic young bunch. With their full batting order plus one, the Rebels scored 6 runs in the final frame with three RBI singles on ASU’s six walks, a balk, and a wild pitch.  


8th Inning

6-4” 230 Pound freshman P Tyler Pohlmann (Perry High School in Chandler) entered in the 8th inning for UNLV, but Arizona State scored one against him and four in the inning. Incidentally, Tyler’s father David Pohlmann was a swimmer for the Sun Devils, and a regular on Mill Avenue as the lead singer of the band “The White Trash Philosophers,” think McDuffy’s or Long Wong’s and Wings.

Spencer Torkelson, projected by some to be the 1st pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, was 2-5 with two RBI’s. Myles Denson and Hunter Bishop added two hits apiece.  Alika Williams was a defensive wizard with six on field assists in the Category One winds in the Nevada desert.

Sun Devil Junior Drew Swift went small ball driving in DH Myles Denson in the 8th on a beautiful squeeze play and had two RBI’s for the game.  Swift, who graduated from Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, went 2-3 on the day with two runs and an RBI in his home city.  

Up 9-4 with an additional four runs in the frame, the Devils may have been thinking about Oregon State, Stanford and UCLA going into the 9th, rather than how opportunistic UNLV has been this year!   


9th Inning

Sun Devil Baseball’s bullpen has to close out games at this point in the season.  Maybe it was the crazy weather that had the Sun Devil staff gripping. The Rebels’ first four batters, Stott, Johnson, Smith, and Williams walked over to first base when the ASU bullpen lobbed 16 balls on 17 total pitches from three different pitchers

Sun Devil Senior Reliever, Sam Romero (2-1) was called for a balk to bring in the first run, and three more followed on RBI singles by Austin Pfeifer, Chase Hanson, and Grant Robbins.  UNLV was down 8-9 when Romero chucked a wild pitch to tie the game. Then he walked in the winning run in an unimaginable finish for Arizona State. In short order, Romero gave up 3 RBI singles, 3 walks, one wild pitch, and a balk.

“Baseball is a lot like life. It’s a day to day existence, full of ups and downs. You make the most of your opportunities in baseball as you do in life.” -Ernie Harwell

Social media was abuzz with DieHard Sun Devil fans who showed their “displeasure” with the loss to a young, yet pesky Runnin’ Rebel team, and how it happened.  I received a number of texts and was shaking my head too! But it happens in baseball.

Sun Devil Baseball will quickly put losses to Long Beach State, USC, and UNLV behind them.  They have now suffered four losses in their last five games. The only other loss for the Devils was at home against Oregon.  Oregon just beat Oregon State.

Sun Devil Baseball is 23-1 at home, and Friday night at Phoenix Municipal Stadium starts a highly anticipated three-game series with 4th-ranked Oregon State (23-6-1).  In my opinion, the Beaver series is the current benchmark for Coach Tracy Smith’s season.  It will foreshadow the story of what’s to come down the stretch. Smith simply has to work his steady magic.  

No reason to stress as Pac-12 Baseball is stacked with talent. Arizona State has yet to face top-ranked UCLA or the 5th ranked Stanford Cardinal.  They will get another swing at UNLV in two weeks at home and will also face a hot Nebraska team, a Big Ten program Coach Smith knows well from his time coaching Indiana (2006-2014).  

But perhaps it is time for Coach Smith to pull out some old fashioned, dependable voodoo for his pitching staff?  MLB Ace, Justin Verlander eats three crunchy taco supremes, no tomato, a cheesy gordita crunch, and a Mexican pizza, no tomato, the night before every game he pitches.  Retired Major Leaguer Jason Giambi infamously donned a gold thong in the locker room when he was in a slump, and the superstitious remedy had worked beautifully for him.  

If you don’t believe in magic or unicorns, you don’t know baseball.  Repetition is the mother of learning, and our habits create a platform for success and equally for failure.  Baseball is a strange game of chance, and you have to take advantage of each opportunity as small as they may seem.  

Being superstitious sometimes helps!

Arizona State is holding opposing teams to a .252 batting average.  They have outscored opponents 307-158 this season. If you failed Eric Kostelich’s Uncertainty Quantification Course at ASU’s School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, the Sun Devils have scored 149 more runs than the bad guys.  But if you ask Professor Kostelich, anything can happen and will in baseball. Case in point- the 9th inning in Sin City.

If you love a good “Chess Match,” don’t miss all three games this weekend against Oregon State.  This is going to be science, as much as it will be baseball.

My Opinion: The Devils sweep.  


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