The mindset around the Arizona State baseball team (19-13, 5-9 Pac-12) following Saturday’s 11-inning 8-4 loss to the California Golden Bears (21-10, 9-5 Pac-12) isn’t one of dismay or frustration, but one of fight and belief that their season still holds something worth playing for.
Trailing 4-2 going into the ninth and being down to their last out, ASU battled back and was able to tie the game on an RBI single by Chris Beall followed by an RBI double from Andrew Snow to force the game into extras. Cal ended up scoring four runs in the 11th to walk away with the victory, but head coach Tracy Smith could not have been prouder of the fight his team showed.
“I would live with that effort any day of the week with our guys. I don’t think anybody quit, we used basically everybody on the roster and they all contributed,” Smith said. “The effort was there, the intent was there, the focus was there, I loved it. I didn’t love losing, but I loved being in that dugout and competing with those guys today.”
It truly was all hands on deck for the Sun Devils in this game. With Eder Erives unable to start having thrown 22 pitches in the series opener, Smith handed the ball to Eli Lingos and would end up using seven total pitchers along with all seven players off the bench.
Lingos battled through six plus innings and gave all he had, scattering 11 hits but only giving up two runs to go with one walk and four strikeouts.
“That was big. We needed him and what was the best part for me was he was tired probably in the fourth, and we said ‘We need a couple more out of you, can you just flip some up there?’ and he willingly did that,” Smith said. “11 hits, you could argue that he wasn’t effective, but when you look at the box (score) at the end of the day against a real good hitting team he gives up two runs. It’s sickening that we don’t find a way to win that baseball game, but sometimes that’s going to happen.”
One positive to take away from the game was the performance of designated hitter Sebastian Zawada, who went 2-5 with a double and a home run, putting ASU ahead 1-0 in the second inning with his fifth round-tripper of the season. It was his first home run and RBI since March 12th against UC Davis.
Despite the fact that Zawada is hitting .226 in conference play compared to .298 with four home runs and 13 RBI in non-conference play, the junior college transfer is confident that he still has plenty of production left in him this season.
“I think it’s all a process. You come into a season, you run into a rut here and there, but how you respond to that I think defines you, so I’m not going to stop. You’ll be seeing more of it,” Zawada said.
All is not lost for Arizona State even after Saturday’s heartbreaker. A win in the Sunday finale would mean a series-win over the current number one team in the Pac-12. It could go a long way for momentum as the team will head to Stanford next weekend for a matchup with the third place Pac-12 team as they try to climb back into contention for a postseason berth.
Second baseman Andrew Snow knows the importance that lies with Sunday’s game, and feels that team is ready to make a big push with six weeks left in the regular season.
“We’re definitely trying to make a run for it, and I think we’re going to do it tomorrow. It’s going to be a grind, I mean it’s a dogfight,” Snow said. “(California) is at the top of the conference, they’re trying to win the conference and we’re trying to define ourselves. It’s a big series for us.”
With his players having such a locked-in attitude moving forward, Smith thinks that there is still hope for the 2016 season.
“I loved the fact that we played hard until the last out. I can live with that. We all hate losing, but I’m going to go home tonight, probably going to sit there — and I’m 21 so I can say this — I’ll probably have a Scotch and sit there and reflect on the game,” Smith said. “But one thing I’m not going to reflect on or be angry at is were we into the game or were we trying. It was phenomenal.”
Bobby Kraus is a baseball beat reporter for the Walter Cronkite Sports Network. You can follow him on Twitter @bobbykraus22