At this point, the Arizona State baseball team should be used to late inning heroics and dog piles. Both of ASU's victories this weekend against UC Davis came in extra innings and eight of their 15 games in 2016 have been decided by three runs or fewer.
Sunday's series finale followed the same script. ASU fell behind early, fought their way back and - for the third consecutive game - won on a walk-off, this time coming in the from of an RBI single of the bat of Ryan Lillard with two runners on in the bottom of the ninth to give ASU a 3-2 victory and a series sweep of UC Davis.
"What I like most about (this game) is we used a lot of our roster," said manager Tracy Smith. "There is the old saying that you have to learn how to win and I think these guys are doing a great job of that right now and I hope it pays off down the road for us."
Ryan Lillard pitch-hit for catcher Zach Cerbo in the bottom of the eighth inning and entered the game in left field in the ninth. Smith used four late-inning substitutes and five pitchers in the victory.
"I told myself to just get a perfect pitch to hit," said Lillard, who was in a 3-1 count at the time of his game-winning base hit. "3-1 I knew he didn't want to walk me so I was sitting fast ball, got one, and put a pretty good swing on it."
The Sun Devils received another outstanding start from redshirt freshman Reagan Todd. The southpaw allowed just four hits and one run in six innings and boasts a 1.16 ERA in 23.1 innings this season.
"He was locating away and they didn't make a lot of adjustments," said Smith about his lefty. "I thought he did a good job of keeping the ball away and letting them get themselves out. We needed somebody to step up and he clearly has done it again."
The Aggies got to Todd in the top of the fourth inning when following a walk and a single, third baseman Ryan Anderson hit a sac fly to deep centerfield to score Jacob Thomas and give UC Davis a 1-0 lead.
The drama on Sunday did not start in the ninth inning. To lead off the top of the seventh, UC Davis left fielder Guillermo Salazar hit a pop fly to first base and barreled over David Greer as he was attempting to make the catch near the bag.
Salazar was called out because of interference and Greer had to be restrained by the first base umpire and teammates.
"The way we were not competing at the plate, almost sleeping at the plate, that kind of woke us up," said Smith. "It got the dugout going a bit."
The drama continued in the top of the eighth inning when with two runners on, UC Davis pitch-hitter Cameron Olson hit a ball over the left field fence to seemingly give the Aggies a 4-0 lead.
The umpires initially ruled the ball fair, however after a meeting with Smith, home plate umpire Ramon Armendariz called a meeting with the other two umpires and they reversed the call to a foul ball.
Olson struck out and UC Davis only added one run to take a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the eighth.
"Me, the umpires, our players and probably even their (UC Davis) coaching staff admitted that the ball landed to the left of the foul pole," Smith said. "It clearly landed left of the foul pole. It was five to six feet to that side. So I think all the umpires got together and got that right so credit to them for that."
The Sun Devils struck for two runs to tie the game in the bottom half of the eighth when Colby Woodmansee signaled up the middle with runners on second and third to score Greer and Andrew Shaps and tie the game at two heading into the ninth.
The Sun Devils received good work out of Ryan Hingst, who retired five of the six batters he faced in the eighth and ninth innings to keep the Sun Devils tied and set the stage for a third consecutive walk-off victory.
ASU has now won eight consecutive games and earned their second weekend sweep of the season. Following an exhibition on Tuesday against Meiji University (Tokyo) the Sun Devils will hit the road for their first conference series of the season against Oregon State.