(Photo: Dominic Cotroneo/WCSN)
For the streaking Sun Devils, Tuesday night’s exhibition was the calm before the Pac-12 storm.
Arizona State (13-3) walked off against Meiji University in a 4-3 exhibition win at Phoenix Muni before this weekend’s road trip to Corvallis, where the Sun Devils will open up Pac-12 play against Oregon State (12-2).
Due to the fact that tonight’s game goes down as an exhibition, ASU’s win streak still sits at eight games.
Head coach Tracy Smith used tonight’s game to take a look at some of his bench players.
Starters Andrew Shaps, Colby Woodmansee, David Greer, Brian Serven and Gage Canning were all kept out.
“Clearly we were trying to use a lot of guys tonight, get some guys out there and see what they could do,” Smith said. “The competitive bone kicks in a little bit too, you want to win the baseball game just because winning is winning.”
Meiji Unviersity is a member of the Tokyo Big6 Baseball League, one of Japan’s premier collegiate divisions.
Last fall, Meiji finished with a record of 9-4, the second best in the league behind Waseda University (8-2).
Freshman Fitz Stadler got the call on the mound for the Sun Devils and despite an efficient performance, was pulled after just two innings in favor of Zach Dixon, who also pitched just two innings.
The two shared almost identical stat lines, each yielding two hits and a walk. Dixon finished with three strikeouts, while Stadler finished without one.
Meiji played like one of Japan’s elite, holding the ASU offense scoreless until the fifth inning, where sophomore Ryan Lillard drove in junior Zach Cerbo via a sac-fly to break the tie.
Tomoya Hoshi’s performance on the mound anchored Meiji–he finished with four hits, an earned run and four strikeouts in five innings.
“Their pitching I thought was fantastic,” Smith said.
Hoshi was in line for the win following the sixth inning where the Meiji offense came to life, scoring two runs to take a short-lived lead.
After pulling Hoshi in favor of Yuya Yangi in the sixth, the Devils were able to get the best of Yangi in the seventh inning, scoring two runs to take a 3-2 lead.
Coltin Gerhart drove in the tying run, then later in the inning crossed to plate for the lead after R.J. Ybarra was hit by a pitch.
Gerhart went 4-for-5, with two runs, two doubles and an RBI.
“From a position player’s standpoint, left field we’ve been running different guys out there the entire time waiting for one of those guys, Coltin, Ryan [Lillard], Tyler [Williams] and Daniel [Williams],” Smith said. “Yes, it’s an exhibition game, but we’re still trying to figure out who can help us. I think he made a statement tonight by the way he played and put together some good at bats.”
In the ninth, it was freshman Kevin McCann, the ninth pitcher deployed by Smith in the contest, tasked with closing the game out.
His opportunity was short-lived though, surrendering two hits to the first two batters he faced.
Smith would then call upon senior Eric Melbostad, who wasn’t able to clean up McCann’s mess and allowed the game-tying run to make it 3-3 in the ninth.
As has become routine at this point though for ASU, sophomore Andrew Snow ultimately hit a walk-off single to give the team its fourth-straight walk-off win.
“I’ve gone seasons without a walk-off,” Snow said. “That’s fun, it’s always fun.”
One star: Coltin Gerhart
Gerhart got the start in center field and went 4-for-5 from the leadoff spot. He finished with a double, an RBI to tie the game and then the run to take the lead in the seventh.
Two stars: R.J. Ybarra
In the seventh with the bases loaded, Ybarra took a pitch to the elbow without flinching in order to send Gerhart, the go-ahead run, home from third. Ybarra finished 1-for-3 with the RBI.
Three stars: Jordan Aboites
Playing in place of Colby Woodmansee at short, Aboites made a diving play deep in the hole at short. While he struggled at the plate, his defense alone was enough for three stars.