(Photo: Dominic Cotroneo/WCSN)
Eder Erives has done anything and everything Tracy Smith has asked of him to do this season. The junior leads the team with 20 appearances and seven saves, while also slotting second in strikeouts (68) and innings pitched (66 1/3).
Then, in the series finale rubber match on Sunday against Arizona, Smith put Erives in to pitch for Aboites, but opted to keep Aboites at second base. This decision placed Erives in the lineup, batting ninth. Before he came up with two on and one out in the seventh, Smith joked: “You’re from Texas, you can hit.”
Hit he did. Erives knocked the first pitch he saw from Bobby Dalbec into left field for the Sun Devils’ second run of the game, a run which became the game-winning RBI in ASU’s (31-17, 13-11) 5-1 victory over Arizona (32-18, 15-11).
The pitch he hit?
“I have no idea,” Erives said in his own words postgame. “I just saw a ball and took a hack.”
The last time the El Paso native hit was in his senior year at Montwood High School in El Paso, Texas.
The base hit sparked a four-run seventh inning that was ultimately the difference in the game.
“You look at that inning and it made us do things,” Smith said.
Jordan Aboites and Andrew Snow led off the inning with singles to set the stage.
“If I don’t have Erives on deck, I probably bunt [Daniel] Williams… It’s just kind of funny. I said to the guys, ‘That game is exactly what we’re doing. It’s a little crazy, it’s a little different, but we’re finding ways to win, and last I checked that’s all that matters.’ ”
Gage Canning followed Erives with an RBI double to make the score 3-0. Then with two outs and the bases loaded, Andrew Shaps pushed a single through the left side to score two more.
After throwing five scoreless innings, Aboites exited the mound during the sixth and was placed at second base–replacing Jeremy McCuin. The switch prompted Aboites to hit sixth, and the DH was burned. It also meant Aboites would lead off the top of the seventh.
“After I stepped off the mound and went to second, I wasn’t a pitcher anymore–I went into second baseman mode,” Aboites said. “I felt a little rust having to come in and lead off, but I just cleared my mind and knew that [Kevin Ginkel] was going to give me some pitches to hit and just try to be aggressive with it.”
Ginkel, who threw a two-hit shutout against the Sun Devils at Phoenix Muni the last time these teams met, started the game and allowed a few hits from the get-go. The first pitch of the game was a lead off triple by Gage Canning down the right field line.
“He’s becoming a threat in the batter’s box,” Smith said of his freshman phenom. “With Gage on there, particularly if he’s able to hit some extra-base hits, we’re more of a threat as a team offensively.”
Canning went 5-for-13 on the weekend, with four of his hits going for extra bases.
ASU’s pitching kept Arizona off the board for the first seven innings of the game. Aboites credited using his slider early in counts for a strike. Smith noted that his staff needed to throw strikes with the wind blowing in at Hi Corbett Field to keep the game a low-scoring affair. The only run that the Wildcats scored reached on a walk in the eighth inning.
“I thought [Aboites] was phenomenal today,” Smith said. “Eder coming in and doing what he did today. It wasn’t his best stuff but I thought that was one of his most gutsy performances at least that I’ve seen.”
ASU has now won five series in a row, four of which came in Pac-12 play. The message that Aboites wants it to send is clear.
“We’re here,” he said. “We’ve been here all year, and obviously we’ve been through our trials and tribulations a little bit. We’re just excited to take this momentum into the last couple series of the season.”
Dominic Cotroneo is a broadcaster for ASU Baseball on Pac-12 Digital and reports for the team here on CronkiteSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Dom_Cotroneo.