(Photo: Nicole Hernandez/WCSN)
For the third straight game, the Arizona State Baseball team came back from a first-inning deficit to win a game as they topped Long Beach State on Sunday afternoon 8-5 for a three-game sweep.
After every starter got a hit on Saturday, eight different players recorded hits on Sunday. Resiliency and the Sun Devil’s ability to come together as a team were key all series long and showed in the Sunday contest, as the team’s mindset was in a positive place for the entire game, even after the rough first inning.
“Even after the four spot in the first, today it was almost like guys were almost laughing about it like no big deal,” head coach Tracy Smith told the media after the series-sweeping victory.
Ryan Hingst started the game for the Sun Devils and struggled, pitching only two innings and allowing four runs, while walking two Long Beach batters.
Jake Godfrey entered the game with no outs and runners on first and second in the third inning, loading the bases with only one out before eventually getting out of the jam. Godfrey went on to pitch 3 2/3 scoreless innings for ASU, allowing one hit and one walk while striking out two. Making it the second game in a row he had gotten out of a jam after coming in with runners on, Godfrey credited his success to his teammates.
“For me, it’s when those guys are on, your teammates got those guys on, you don’t want to let your teammate down,” Godfrey said following the victory. “You bring it, you come in and you want to close the door and not allow those runs to score. I think that’s the whole team mantra pretty much.”
After earning the save on Saturday, then the win in the series-sweeping game, Godfrey’s efforts did not go unnoticed by ASU’s head coach or his teammates.
“He got our player of the game,” Smith said. “He came in in a real tough spot and held them to no runs, the chatter in the dugout was that’s gonna win us a baseball game. And then he goes out and shuts them down the rest of the way and lets our offense get fired up a little bit.”
The offense for the Sun Devils got fired up early on, especially after Godfrey entered the game. The first five batters in the bottom of the third inning reached base, as Gage Canning doubled to start things off. Zach Cerbo, Andrew Shaps and Lyle Lin each singled, followed by a Hunter Bishop triple that eventually led to five runs scored in the inning, as Jackson Willeford doubled in Bishop later.
After playing in only four games and receiving just nine at-bats leading up to the series with the Dirtbags, Zach Cerbo started all three games of the series, over which he notched five hits, including the aforementioned third inning single.
“Cerbo has not gotten a lot of time early, but I would argue that he was probably the catalyst on the weekend for us,” Smith stated after the game. “What he was able to do offensively and leading the guys out there. You love to see that, from a coaching perspective you absolutely love to see that.”
Coming into the series on a four-game losing streak, many thought the season was lost, but the team came together on Friday to carry the series sweep on Sunday into conference play.
“Honestly we’re just believing in ourselves,” Connor Higgins claimed. “We’re just trusting the process, we know we’re a good baseball team, we were just in a little funk, so we knew if we just kept believing in ourselves, the hits would fall and the cutch pitches would come and that’s what happened this weekend.”
Even with the Long Beach state run scored in the seventh and the runners that reached base in the ninth, Arizona State proved to be too much for the Dirtbags to handle, as Ryan Lillard drilled a solo home run to center field on the first pitch of the eighth, giving Connor Higgins the momentum to pick up his first win of the season.
“We tightened our ranks a little bit and the guys playing for each other,” Smith said when asked what he was most confident about going into conference paly against Oregon State. “If you look at execution-wise, particularly on the mound, it was not pretty this week, way too many free bases, all that stuff. We didn’t situationally hit real well today, we did okay, but in spite of that, if you play together, you throw a little bit of talent, some energy in that stuff, you give yourself a chance to win, in spite of all the negative stuff… Our guys are confident right now.”
Nick Badders is a baseball beat writer for the Walter Cronkite Sports Network. You can follow him on Twitter @BadderUpSports.