It was going to be too perfect, but the baseball gods couldn't let it happen. Left fielder Jake Peevyhouse at the plate representing the tying run. Friday night's walk-off hero shortstop Colby Woodmansee on deck with 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth and ASU trailing 9-8 to Oklahoma State.
If he gets on, it sets up a pitcher-hitter rematch which could have ended in similar fashion to Friday's opening day matchup, but it wasn't to be. Peevyhouse flied out to right to end the game, the Sun Devils coming up just short of capping off a six-run comeback victory over Oklahoma State.
"We didn't quite get it done today," head coach Tracy Smith said. "But when you give up a 6-spot and fight all the way back with the tying run at the plate, that's a positive too."
Smith's gamesmanship and strategy were apparent throughout as he still tries to sort out roles and talent on his new team. He used four pinch hitters and six different pitchers to try and maneuver his team to victory.
"Even going into today I said to the coaches and to the team, ‘we're building depth today,'" Smith said. "We're in this thing for the long haul and we've got to make sure we let guys know, you've got to be ready when called upon."
He even sent Peevyhouse home on a wild pitch in the bottom of the fifth with a 2-2 count to third baseman Dalton DiNatale. It ended with Peevyhouse called out at home. His post game reaction:
"That stuff is going to happen sometimes in baseball."
Woodmansee was ready to play baseball again, finishing his afternoon 2 for 4 with 2 runs and an RBI off his second solo home run in the first three games. His home run in the seventh along with another solo dinger off the bat of Ybarra in the bottom of the fourth bookended the ASU comeback attempt.
The maroon and gold spent the entire game trying to recover from a six-run third inning by the Cowboys. Doubles by left fielder Ryan Sluder and second baseman Tim Arakawa helped OSU mount their lead. Sun Devils sophomore right hander Darrin Gillies faced control issues and fanned five of the first six he faced but hit two straight batters to spark the run. He went just 2.1 innings, giving up five earned runs.
"The part we've got to get better on is I have to know what I'm getting when I put a guy in a game when it comes to balls and strikes," Smith said. "Every time out is more stuff we can process for future situations."
Smith was also proud of the job his young bullpen staff did in relief, including freshman righty Ryan Hingst and southpaw Eli Lingos. Hingst gave up one run on three hits in an inning and two thirds and Lingos went two innings giving up two earned runs, an improvement over what Gillies was able to provide against the same lineup.
"The important thing is that they competed," Smith said. "I don't think there was a fear or timidness to them and I think that's where we've got to get to. Whatever happens, whatever the result, you've just got to let it hang, let it go and I think both those guys did that."
He also sent a clear message that the past regime is over, and if ASU is to host a regional or super regional come the postseason, they'll need to pull out wins like today and more Sunday and midweek games in the future.
"I heard it when I was here that our Sunday was always a slug fest," Smith said. "If we're going to make the impression that we need to make and play the caliber of baseball we need to play on a national scene, a Sunday is just like a Friday. It needs to be quality, it needs to be consistent and we need to know what we're going to get"
In spite of the loss Sunday, ASU still comes away with a series victory in its first three games ever at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. The total attendance was 10,360 and the crowd Sunday was the biggest Sunday group to take in an ASU baseball game since Mar. 27, 2011. The Sun Devils head into a midweek home game with Oklahoma with a lot to build on.
"Our thing is the score shouldn't dictate how you play and I thought it didn't for the most part. I thought we continued to battle but unfortunately just didn't get it done," Smith said. "I'm still learning the staff is still learning about our personnel and the only way we're going to do that is to see our guys in competition."