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ASU Baseball: Sun Devils squeak by Eastern Michigan in extras

(Photo: Dominic Cotroneo/WCSN)

There’s something about Colby Woodmansee and late-inning heroics at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.

An 11th inning game-tying double by Woodmansee helped Arizona State (7-3) defeat the Eastern Michigan Eagles (4-7) 4-3 in 11 innings.

Head coach Tracy Smith saw more than one’s fair share of hard-fought games and walk-off wins in the 2015 season, and sees the first walk-off win of 2016 for ASU as a big moment for the team.

“We needed that. With umpteen opportunities to get the big hit it was bound to happen sooner or later,” Smith said.

In a game where the Sun Devils stranded 15 runners, the big hit seemed to be in the seventh inning when Brian Serven looped a single over the head of shortstop Marquise Gill and scored Andrew Shaps to even the score at 2. The hit was followed by a Sebastian Zawada fielder’s choice that gave the Sun Devils their first lead of the night. The lead didn’t last for long.

Junior Eder Erives pitched a perfect eighth inning, but ran into trouble in the ninth. With two outs and a runner on first, Smith decided to intentionally walk pinch hitter John Rensel, Jr. representing the go-ahead run in order to get the matchup he preferred with Erives facing catcher Jeremy Stidham, who was hitless on the night. Erives hit Stidham and then hit the next batter to force the tying run in.

Smith never anticipated the sequence to play out the way that it did.

“If we’re making that move, it’s not with the idea that we’re going to hit the next two guys,” Smith said. “That’s not even factored into the equation. It almost backfired but I would do it again because I just think the next guy’s matchup with [Erives’] slider on that guy was a way better matchup.”

Erives worked through that jam and got through the tenth unscathed, but  EMU went up 4-3 in the 11th on a Gill sacrifice fly.

While ASU thought that they had gotten the big hit they needed earlier in the night, the biggest hit of the young season was yet to come and no one should be surprised as to who it came from.

After David Greer reached first on a fielder’s choice that forced Shaps out at second, Woodmansee added to his clutch reputation by scorching a double off Matthew Beaton into the right-center field gap, scoring Greer all the way from first. Two batters later,  Zawada lined a single into left field and scored Woodmansee to send the Sun Devils home happy and relieved.

The game-tying double was Woodmansee’s only hit of the night, but his ability to adjust on-the-fly played a key role in his success.

“I saw he was throwing sliders to Serven and Zawada when there were guys on base. I thought [Beaton] was going to come at me with sliders and I actually moved up in the box probably six inches,” Woodmansee said. “He threw me a fastball up and away and I just went with it.”

After Woodmansee’s memorable walk-off home run in the tenth inning of Opening Night last season against Oklahoma State, the first of six walk-off victories for ASU in 2015, he definitely had a bit of déja vu in this game.

“It’s almost like a flashback. I just think that’s something that is instilled a lot of our core guys from last year, knowing that we don’t ever give up,” Woodmansee said.

The Devils squeaked by in Saturday’s game after winning the opener of the series by the margin of 12-4. They will go for the sweep of the Eagles on Sunday at 12:30 MST, with Eli Lingos likely to take the mound.

You can reach the author on Twitter @bobbykraus22

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