Arizona State struggled to gain its footing at the plate on Tuesday against the Arizona Diamondbacks, but an offensive breakout wasn't exactly expected from the Sun Devils. Nor was it needed.
The exhibition defeat will not count against their loss column, and more important than the result was the fact that the players wearing maroon and gold got to go up against a major league ball club.
"It was just a cool experience to be a part of," said first baseman Ryan Lillard. "I wasn't too nervous because it was just a scrimmage."
The meeting between Arizona State and the Diamondbacks was the inaugural game of the MLB team's Collegiate Baseball Series. They will face the University of Arizona next season, then Grand Canyon in 2017. Then the cycle will start all over again with the Sun Devils returning to Salt River Fields in 2018.
"They made us feel very welcome," ASU head coach Tracy Smith said. "The stuff they rolled out in the clubhouse and all that, it was over the top. It gives our guys something to shoot for."
The Sun Devil pitching staff impressed all of the 6,655 fans in attendance, a solid number of which came out decked in maroon and gold. The trio of Ryan Hingst, Andrew Shaps, and Eric Melbostad combined for four scoreless innings to start the game, striking out two and only allowing a pair of hits.
"I thought it was a good confidence builder for them," Smith said. "Overall, I was pleased with the guys that ran out there and took the ball today."
The Diamondbacks broke through in the fifth frame for two runs, and again in the eighth for two more. They got runners to third base with less than two outs on two separate occasions, but twice Dalton DiNatale cut down the go-ahead run at the plate with a pair of nice throws from third base.
It was Danny Dorn that finally drew first blood for the Diamondbacks. He lifted a ball to deep right center field that Johnny Sewald just barely missed on a diving attempt. The ball took one hop then bounced over the fence, bringing in two runs. Sewald took his time getting up from the all-out dive, but would end up being fine.
"He made a tremendous effort on that one," Smith said. "I was probably shaken up more (than Sewald). I think the wind just got knocked out of him a little bit."
Two more runs were added on in the bottom of the eighth, but at that point the team was focused more on getting home without any further injury scares. They were successful in that regard, much to the relief of the coaching staff.
Arizona State will get back into regular season play this weekend with a three game set against Long Beach State. The series will begin on Friday at 6:30 PM. Left-hander Brett Lilek is slated to get the start for the Sun Devils.