(Photo: Dominic Cotroneo/WCSN)
The presence of Rick Monday and many other former Sun Devils made the 8-0 loss at the hands of Arizona a little easier to stomach on Tuesday night.
Head coach Tracy Smith felt as though his players being given the opportunity to be around some of the greatest Sun Devils to play at the school was the real victory of the night, despite what the final score would indicate.
“I hate it that we end up losing that game,” Smith said. “To have that experience with all of those guys out there, to me that’s what this place is. The winning is going to come, we’re going to keep going on that, keep building, but part of that building is not just recruiting and not just winning the games, part of that building is embracing and getting some of those guys back. Some of those guys that were here tonight said they haven’t seen each other in forty years.”
“Maybe that’s our win today,” he said.
Aside from all of the pageantry, it was an uncharacteristic night for the Sun Devils, a night where nothing seemed to click.
A combined six pitchers gave up 16 hits, the offense only managed two hits, and the defense committed three errors.
To add insult to injury, all of the struggles were against Kevin Ginkel, who was making just his second start of the season. His pitching arsenal, according to Smith, wasn’t extensive either.
“At some point, if he doesn’t have secondary stuff, which he was not consistent with that, it doesn’t matter whether a guy is throwing 83 or 95 you still should be able to, if you know a fastball is coming, we should be good enough that a one-pitch pitcher should not handle us for nine innings,” he said.
With the woes on the mound and in the field, Smith acknowledged that his team is going to live and die based on the performances turned in by the pitchers and defensive players.
“The formula for winning is good pitching and good defense, that’s what I told the team,” Smith said. “I said the story very easily could be the guy goes and throws a two-hit shutout against us, but even in that, if we take care of the baseball, that’s three-nothing in the fifth or sixth, pitching with a big lead is different than pitching with a two to three-run lead. Who knows how that goes.”
“To me, the story is we didn’t pitch it real well and we definitely didn’t play very well defensively,” he said.
While it was a midweek game fresh off of an away road trip at Stanford, the team will need to shake the loss before next weekend when New Mexico (30-13) travels to Phoenix Muni for a three-game series.
Due to each team’s respective RPI, the series could have huge implications on where the Sun Devils rank at the end of the season.
“We’ve been up and down all year,” Smith said. “Fortunately, we had a really good weekend this past weekend. It would have been nice to come out and keep that rolling, particularly against your rival, but it didn’t happen. You can either sit and lament about it or you can get yourself ready to go because this weekend’s a huge weekend. New Mexico coming in, they’re sitting very strong in the RPI, so although it is an off-weekend for us, it’s a great weekend for us because if we can do the job this weekend and take control of this weekend, it helps us from an RPI standpoint.”
“I think there should be some anger, there should be some disappointment, maybe even some self-reflection right now, but when they walk out that door, we’ve got to start thinking about how we’re going to get better and win some games this weekend,” Smith said.