When your Pac-12 schedule is filled with dangerous opponents week in and week out, games like the one Arizona State played on Tuesday serve as a nice reprieve to the rigors of conference play. New Mexico State entered the contest with a record of 4-20-1, and three hours later the Aggies were sent home with their 21st loss of the season, falling 7-3 against the Sun Devils.
"There is no more lull like there used to be with the midweek games," starting pitcher David Graybill said after the win. "That is the mindset (coach Tracy Smith) has instilled in us."
With the undermatched opponent on the schedule, Smith was able to tinker with his pitching staff and give Graybill his first career start. The right-hander impressed, throwing three innings of no-hit baseball while striking out four in the process.
"It just felt good to throw with ease," said Graybill. "Just playing catch with the catcher, that is all I really I did."
While Graybill was settling in on the mound, Colby Woodmansee was staying hot at the plate. The sophomore put the maroon and gold up early on a two run, first inning homer over the fence in left center field.
Smith decided Graybill's night was over after striking out the side in the third, then calling upon Tucker Baca out of the bullpen. The visitors immediately jumped all over the reliever, using three singles and a pair of walks to tie the game at two. Baca exited with two outs and the bases jammed, but Ryan Hingst was able to get ASU out of the jam with a much-needed strikeout.
"I like the fact that he comes in pounding the strike zone," Smith said about Hingst. "That is going to elevate his status to throw on the weekends, too."
Not wasting much time, the Sun Devils retook the lead in the bottom of the fifth. Joey Bielek led off the inning with a triple to the gap in left center field, and Coltin Gerhart brought him in on an RBI groundout to second.
They would not look back after that, adding four more runs in their half of the sixth against a weary New Mexico State bullpen. The offensive explosion was highlighted by a wind-aided home run from Trever Allen that just snuck over the wall in right field.
"Thank God for the wind," said Allen. "I will definitely take it though."
ASU was on cruise control from that point on, and while the Aggies added one last run in the ninth, the Sun Devils were fine with trading runs for outs at that point. Hingst (2-1) ended up earning the win, while Michael Paulson (0-2) took the loss for New Mexico State.
The coaching staff was impressed with the way the team handled playing a team with that bad a record in the middle of league play.
"Our approach tonight was very businesslike and professional," said Smith. "We came out like we had something to prove."
While nothing is easy on the road in the Pac-12, ASU will need that same mindset when it faces 9-17 Utah this weekend in Salt Lake City.
"We are not looking at records or opponents," Smith said when asked about the upcoming trip. "This is a tough series on the road in one of the best conferences in the country."
Moved up a day because of the Easter holiday, that series will begin on Thursday at 5:00 PM. Right-hander Seth Martinez will get the start on the mound for the Sun Devils.