Nothing seems to come easy for the 2014 Arizona State baseball team. Seven of their 11 conference games this season have been decided by three runs or fewer. Saturday night against USC was no different, as Arizona State blew a four-run lead in the ninth inning, before taking the game 10-9 in 11 innings.
Arizona State (17-11, 7-4) came out of the gate swinging, as the first six Sun Devils all hit safely to start the game. Arizona State put up three runs in the first inning, including a two-RBI single from Jake Peevyhouse.
The 1-4 hitters in Tim Esmay's lineup combined to go 10-19 on Saturday night and the Sun Devils as a team tallied 19 hits. The No. 5 hitter in the order, RJ Ybarra, collected five RBI's in the Sun Devil victory and every Sun Devil in the starting lineup had at least one hit.
"We had really good at bats tonight," said Esmay. "What's nice to see, is the top of our order getting the majority of those hits and those RBI's."
USC (14-15, 3-8) responded in the third inning with two runs of their own, one of them unearned to Arizona State starter Ryan Kellogg (5 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 4 K) because of an error by shortstop Colby Woodmansee that extended the inning.
However, after Arizona State loaded the bases in the bottom of the third, Ybarra hit a bases clearing double to left field to put the Sun Devils up 6-2. Everytime USC scored, the Sun Devils had an answer. The Trojans scored three runs in the sixth to pull within one run, but Arizona State added some insurance with a three-run seventh inning.
Arizona State took a 9-5 lead into the ninth inning when Sun Devils RHP Jordan Aboites surrendered hits to the first three USC batters of the inning. He was pulled after a Dante Flores sacrifice fly pulled USC within three, prompting Tim Esmay to bring in closer Ryan Burr for a save situation.
Burr hit the first batter he face and gave up an RBI single to Garrett Subbs as USC pulled within two. With the bases loaded and two outs, Burr walked the next two batters, bringing in the tying runs for the Trojans. Burr struck out Jeremy Hernandez with the bases loaded to keep the game tied.
"That's part of being a closer, sometimes it doesn't go the way you want it," said Esmay. "But he made three big pitches to allow us to keep playing."
The game stayed tied until the bottom of the 11th inning. With the bases loaded, RJ Ybarra hit a ball to left field that was just deep enough to score Nathaniel Causey from third base and secure the walk-off win for the Sun Devils.
"I just wanted to try to get a ball up (in the strikezone) and make solid contact," said Ybarra. "That's what I normally like to do at the plate so my mindset didn't vary from that."
Both teams don't have much time off, as the series finale is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon. Esmay does not believe the quick turnaround will have an effect on the game.
"It might be tough on my body," Esmay joked. "But these are 18, 19 and 20 year-old kids. I hope it's not tough on their bodies to get up and play."