After falling behind early last weekend in losses to Long Beach State and UC Irvine, the Sun Devil baseball team made similar mistakes at the start of Thursday night's game against Santa Clara. But unlike its previous defeats, the Sun Devils didn't let an early deficit phase them as they rallied from behind to take down the Broncos 9-6.
With four games in four days this weekend, Sun Devil coach Tim Esmay knew his pitching staff would face one of its toughest challenges of the season. Arizona State trotted Darin Gillies out to the mound on Thursday, and Gillies' first inning was the kind of shaky performance that can rattle a pitcher's confidence.
Fortunately for Esmay's club, the three runs Gillies allowed in the top of the first inning were all the Broncos would score against him as he threw a career-best six innings en route to his first victory of the season.
Gillies settled down and allowed three hits in his final five innings on the mound, allowing time for the Sun Devil bats to come alive. Arizona State evened the score in the second inning as Tucker Esmay's two-run single got Arizona State on the board and Johnny Sewald knocked in Esmay on an RBI-groundout.
In the bottom of the fifth, R.J. Ybarra broke the 3-3 tie with a two-run single to right center which brought home offensive catalyst Drew Stankiewicz who went 3-for-5 out of the two-spot in Arizona State's lineup.
Stankiewicz collected two runs batted in of his own on a sixth inning single and Trever Allen plated the Sun Devil shortstop with a sacrifice fly later in the inning.
Leading 9-3 entering the eighth inning, Arizona State had finally found its comfort zone, but relief pitcher Eric Melbostad put a few doubts back in the minds of Sun Devil fans. After a solid seventh inning, Melbostad allowed two runs in the eighth following third baseman Joey Bielek's second error of the game.
In the ninth inning, freshman Eder Erives came on to close things out, but not before a brief Broncos rally brought Santa Clara within three.
Erives ultimately sealed the deal and Arizona State climbed back to .500 on the season with the 9-6 victory. The Sun Devils return to action on Friday in Surprise, Ariz. against Gonzaga and that game is slated for a 4:30 p.m. start time.