With the Jael Mary winning by an overwhelming 97-3 margin in yesterday's vote, the Round of 16 was finally over with the Elite Eight being born. The picks only get harder from here...
On February 13, ASU baseball ushered in a new era. The Sun Devils moved away from historic Packard Stadium into the friendlier confines of Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Not only was February 13 the first time the Sun Devils played a game at Phoenix Muni, it was the first game for new head coach Tracy Smith in maroon and gold.
The Sun Devils began the 2015 season hosting No. 5 Oklahoma State and former ASU assistant coach Josh Holliday. ASU struck first in the bottom of the fourth inning with an RBI single from Colby Woodmansee and an RBI double from Dalton Dinatale to jump out to a 2-0 lead.
The Cowboys answered with two runs in the top of the fifth and took a 3-2 lead the next inning when Kevin Bradley singled home Connor Costello.
That lead held until the bottom of the eighth when ASU tied the game at three on a Jordan Aboites RBI double. Ryan Burr threw a scoreless ninth and 10th frame and Woodmansee led off the bottom of the 10th with the game tied. On a 1-2 count, Woodmansee smashed a solo home run to left field to give ASU a 4-3 victory.
That game began a trend that the Sun Devils continued all season. ASU posted six walk-off victories this season and found themselves in tight contests all season.
Woody's walk off is one of two moments from the ASU baseball team in our 16-moment bracket. Our writers saw it as the No. 4 moment in ASU athletics this year, however it is up to the fans to see how far Woody's walk-off can go in the tournament.
Video below courtesy Doug Woodmansee and Pac-12 Digital Networks.
- Connor Pelton
It wasn't long ago that ASU hockey was just another club sport. Competing in the relatively unknown American Collegiate Hockey Association, the Sun Devils failed to yield a strong team and thus, suffered the curse of irrelevance in the ASU athletic community.
That changed in 2010, when Greg Powers was hired as head coach of the team.
Powers, who played goalie on the club squad when he was a student at ASU, brought a new approach to the team and subsequently changed its culture. Rather than solely relying on players from the Southwest, Powers made recruiting trips to Canada, and pulled players down to Tempe from north of the border.
Fast forward a couple of years, and half of the team was composed of Canadian players that Powers convinced to not just play club hockey at ASU, but to pay dues for it. Some of them even gave up D1 opportunities to play for Powers in Tempe.
Under the direction of Powers and its infusion of NCAA-quality talent, the Sun Devils put together a historic 2013-14 season, going 34-2 and earning the top seed in the ACHA national championship tournament. Arizona State dismantled its opponents en route to a national championship, bringing unprecedented attention from the ASU community that the team hadn't previously enjoyed.
The momentum from their national title, something even ASU's NCAA-sanctioned teams haven't accomplished since the softball team's championship in 2011, brought the Sun Devil hockey team a large fanbase headed into the 2014-15 season.
House of Sparky editor emeritus Justin Emerson conducted an interview with ASU athletic director Ray Anderson, and posed the seemingly-naive question of whether the club team could make the jump to being NCAA-sponsored. Anderson was open to the idea, and shortly after Emerson's article went live he got a call from the father of a former ASU club hockey player, pledging to make the transition to NCAA a reality.
ASU didn't finish its final season in the ACHA at the top of the club team heap, getting knocked out in the postseason to bring its tenure in the league to end, but the Sun Devils now embark on a new journey.
Arizona State will play a hybrid schedule in 2015-16, filling its schedule with a mix of D1 and ACHA teams. By 2016 the Sun Devils will match up against solely D1 teams, and ASU will be a full-fledged NCAA hockey team complete with a to-be-determined conference membership in by the 2017 season.
The reason that it will take two years to join a conference is similar to why ASU's immersion into NCAA competition is unique. Sitting nearly 600 miles from the closest D1 school, ASU brings a big-school stick to a D1 hockey party dominated by small universities. The last school with an undergraduate enrollment under 20,000 to take home the NCAA hockey championship was Michigan State in 2007. Since then, the trophy has been hoisted by the likes of Yale, Providence and Minnesota-Duloth among others.
With a completely different climate than nearly every other D1 team, as well as having the big-school distinction that many top hockey teams don't, the Sun Devils enter the NCAA hockey scene with built-in recruiting advantages.
- Shane Theodore