(Photo: Dominic Cotroneo/WCSN)
With the season on the line against Gonzaga on Sunday, Tracy Smith needed a pitcher not named Seth Martinez or Jordan Aboites to play the role of savior for the Sun Devils.
Freshman Zach Dixon delivered.
No. 2 Arizona State defeated No. 3 Gonzaga 6-3, advancing to play No. 1 TCU in the regional final at 4:30 MST
Thankfully for the Devils, Dixon’s first inning on the mound was not indicative of how the rest of his outing would go.
His eight-inning day, in which he threw a career-high 140 pitches, started with two hits and an early earned run in the first, forcing Smith to start warming up Reagan Todd as insurance.
Todd never got out of the bullpen, as Dixon was able to settle down and turn in the biggest performance of his young career.
Dixon fanned nine Bulldogs, giving up three earned runs and three walks before turning the ball over to Ryan Hingst for the save.
Player of the Game: Zach Dixon
Aside from his complete game against California earlier in the year, Dixon had been sporadic and the least bit dependable to end the year. On Sunday, though, he flipped that script and saved his team’s season with a gutsy performance on the mound, hurling 140 pitches and nine strikeouts. Entering the postseason, Dixon had managed just 12 strikeouts in five starts.
Unsung Hero: Andrew Shaps
While Shaps’ lone hit in five at-bats was nothing special, his play on defense saved the season for the Devils. In the eighth inning, with the Bulldogs closing in on the tie and a runner on second, Shaps robbed Tyler Frost of an RBI single with a diving catch to strand the runner and end the inning.
Arizona State will take on No. 1 TCU at 4:30 for the regional championship. The Sun Devils will need to win two games over the Horned Frogs in order to advance to the super regional, and with one loss, they will be eliminated.