(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
The momentum continues to build for an Arizona State team that, at one point, was slipping toward the bottom of the conference.
One weekend removed from the team’s sweep at Stanford, the Sun Devils (26-15) returned home and made it two consecutive series sweeps with three wins over a talented New Mexico (30-16) team.
Friday and Saturday’s games both featured an abundance of offense, with both teams scoring a combined 25 runs in the two games.
Sunday however, all it took was one – an Andrew Shaps single in the ninth to plate Colby Woodmansee.
“I mean we hadn’t really been stringing together very many hits,” Shaps said. “Especially with the past couple of days we’d been hitting so well. It was a little frustrating so I think I dialed in a little extra because I wanted to pick us up.”
Shaps and the Sun Devil lineup were neutralized by New Mexico’s Colton Thomson for seven innings. It wasn’t until New Mexico elected to turn the reigns over to Victor Sanchez were the Devils able to string together some base runners.
Sanchez hit both Colby Woodmansee and Brian Serven to give Arizona State an opportunity to end it in the ninth inning. Sanchez was then replaced by Alex Estrella, who gave up the walk-off hit to Shaps.
Arizona State and head coach Tracy Smith found confidence in the situation unfolding on the mound, given the performance by Eder Erives and Zach Dixon.
While Dixon only lasted for 2.2 innings, he allowed just two hits. The freshman was lacking, though, as he walked three batters.
“We wanted to get whatever we could get out of Zach and turn it over to Eder to have him the latter innings, the mature guy in the later stages of the game,” Smith said. “It worked out perfectly, I know he [Dixon] probably was a little upset, but you know, it was kind of a struggle even those 2.2 innings, but he did exactly what he was supposed to do, which was shorten that game and give Eder a short game to go ahead and finish that out.
“It wasn’t the prettiest, but he held them off the board which is what he’s supposed to do.”
When Erives took over, Smith knew that all it would take was one hit given his performance.
Erives pitched for 6.1 innings, yielding just one hit to go with seven strikeouts and three walks.
“I felt Eder was on enough, we get one run we’re going to win the baseball game,” Smith said.
Shaps acknowledged that Erives’ performance helped keep the bats optimistic through the struggles today.
“When Eder’s on, you know that the only way the other team’s going to score is if we make errors, honestly,” Shaps said. “That’s how I feel in the outfield at least.”
The win today was the team’s seventh win in their last nine games, an indication that the team is finding its footing and putting it together at the right time.
The grinder’s mentality that has helped fuel the turnaround, according to Smith, has been exemplified by Shaps day in and day out.
“It goes back to that mentality,” Smith said. “He’s playing banged up, he’s not 100 percent, but he’s not wanting to come out, he’s wanting to play, that’s what you like to see and I think if you keep laying it out there with guys like that, with that mentality that have a little bit of talent, they’re going to have some success.”
With the sweep today, morale is at an all-time high for the team as they get back into conference play next weekend with Oregon (19-17) at Phoenix Muni.
“If we take it day by day and win every game that we can, it’s huge,” Shaps said. “Momentum, it’s real. I mean, as you can see, we build that momentum.”