It's not too often a team concedes a five-run lead in the ninth inning only to hear its head coach subtly describe the unraveling act as "just weird."
"Baseball's a funny, funny game," Arizona State Sun Devils coach Tracy Smith said. "We got the win, we'll take comfort in that."
Such was the tone of Smith following his team's extra-inning 6-5 win over the UC Davis Aggies on Friday night at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
The Sun Devils (11-3) extended their winning streak to six straight victories by defeating the Aggies (4-8) in epic fashion, recapturing the win after caving in while holding a five-run lead in the ninth inning.
Catcher Brian Serven (2-for-5, game-winning RBI, R) hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the 11th inning, giving ASU its second such win of the young season, with the first having occurred just a week ago.
"To have that thing in hand, then let it get away like that, but yet still find a way to win on the back of your good players is a positive for me," Smith said.
ASU found a way to squander what was a sterling performance from starting pitcher Eli Lingos. He threw six scoreless innings, en route to drawing a no-decision on the night.
The left-hander has allowed just one run over his last 13.2 innings pitched.
"He was kind of our player of the game," Smith said of Lingos. "He held us in there for six innings and really set the tempo for what this game was suppose to be."
Lingos came away allowing just four hits and one walk in his outing, while striking out five batters and allowing no runs on 79 pitches. He was relieved by freshman right-hander Chris Isbell while ASU still maintained a five-run advantage.
The Sun Devils were cruising to an easy win, until they reached the ninth inning.
Freshman reliever Connor Higgins pitched a perfect eighth inning, then was replaced by freshman right-hander Gio Lopez to start the top of the ninth, with a chance to finish the game in what was his team debut.
The Sun Devils still held a 5-0 advantage when Lopez surrendered a single and walk to begin the frame. After a meeting on the mound, Lopez was pulled in favor of senior Eric Melbostad.
Melbostad, who inherited both of Lopez's runners, gave up back-to-back singles, conceding two runs in the process without recording an out. The Sun Devils' lead was now 5-2.
Smith then turned to Eder Erives to get the three-needed outs while inheriting Melbostad's two base runners. Erives gave up a single, loading the bases. A passed ball enabled all three runners to advance, with the runner from third crossing the plate to draw UC Davis within two runs with no outs.
A mishandled hit at second base by David Greer -- who had originally been deployed at first base -- allowed a runner to score and place a man on third, making the score 5-4 with the game-tying run just 90 feet away with no outs.
Finally, a sacrifice fly to center field plated the tying run, as the Aggies rallied from five down to even things in the final frame of regulation.
"I think everybody was kind of like ‘woah,'" Smith said. "The silver-lining is we didn't collapse and didn't give in to the whole momentum of [their five-run comeback]."
The Sun Devils have been in a similar situation before, coming off a 14-inning thriller they had won against Cal State Fullerton on the road. Their very experience played a key role in them overcoming what many would consider to be a disheartening turn of events.
"Nobody gave up," Serven said. "We knew that the ninth inning was sort of a crazy inning. We all regrouped and we were confident."
After battling through the tenth, the Sun Devils found their way in the bottom of the eleventh.
With two outs, Greer pushed a single through the right side of the infield. Shortstop Colby Woodmansee followed suit with a single that managed to advance Greer all the way to third.
In stepped Serven, who noticed the UC Davis defense had shifted from an earlier at-bat.
"The left fielder wasn't as over," Serven said of his final plate appearance. "The infielders were more spread, so I just had more of a 'stay middle' approach."
Serven connected, driving a ball right back up the middle to bring home Greer and give the Sun Devils their sixth-consecutive win.
Erives was credited with his third win of the campaign following the result.
While the elongated path to victory could be blamed on the unfolding of the bullpen, the offense's performance wasn't without fault, despite logging five runs and 11 hits through nine innings.
"I thought we gave away at-bats," Smith said. "That's the stuff we can not do. I was more frustrated in the first three innings of this game than the ninth inning [and] what they were doing. I was very angry with our team offensively."
Sun Devil batters finished just 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position on the evening, coming away empty on two different bases-loaded chances in both the first and third innings. The missed opportunities would prove to haunt ASU down the stretch.
"We've got to have good professional at-bats," Smith said. "[Leaving runners on base] has to stop, because that's the stuff that'll catch up with you."
Despite its struggle as a whole, the offense was carried early through the performance of right fielder Gage Canning (3-for-3, 3 RBI), who finished with three runs batted in and a home run away from a cycle.
After doubling in the bottom of the second, Canning stepped up to bat in the third with the bases loaded and two outs.
He answered the call, belting a pitch to the wall in right-center before legging out a triple which cleared the bases, giving ASU a 4-0 lead. He would later bunt a single with two men on in the fifth, claiming the only other Sun Devil hit with runners in scoring position during regulation.
"I was just thinking to get us some runs," Canning said.
Arizona State will look to continue its winning streak on Saturday when Seth Martinez (3-0, 0.90 ERA) takes the mound in the second of three against UC Davis at 6:30 p.m. (MST) at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.