The Arizona State Sun Devils' flair for the dramatic apparently doesn't take a night off.
A laid-back exhibition game against Meiji University (Tokyo) eventually turned into a high drama affair by night's end on Tuesday. And for the fourth consecutive game, the night ended with the Sun Devils mobbing one of their own in the infield at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
"This one was a little different than the other ones, just because," said head coach Tracy Smith after the game. "But the competitive bone kicks in. Winning is winning, whether it counts or not."
Smith used the exhibition as an opportunity to test out some of the younger arms in the bullpen, and he came away impressed with most of the small samples. Fitz Stadler, Zach Dixon, and Liam Jenkins all combined for five scoreless innings to start the night, while Gio Lopez and James Ryan also worked near-perfect frames later in the game.
"I thought Fitz looked really good tonight," Smith said. "There are still roles to be had out there, and we're looking for guys who can be successful out there in the Pac."
Meiji is in the States thanks to some work done by Mack Hayashi, the director of Pacific Rim Operations for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Hayashi likes to bring Japanese teams over to the desert in the spring to train and play American competition, and when an extra game was needed, Arizona State volunteered to host the exhibition contest.
It was the Maroon and Gold's offense that eventually broke a scoreless tie in the bottom half of the fifth of this exhibition. Zach Cerbo walked to leadoff the frame and eventually came around to score on a sacrifice fly from Ryan Lillard.
Not ones to be intimidated, the visitors from Japan answered back in the sixth with two runs of their own. A brief lapse of control from reliever Garvin Alston resulted in a walk and hit batsmen for Meiji, and both of those runs would eventually come in via an RBI single and wild pitch.
The back-and-forth continued into the seventh when Arizona State plated two more runs to grab a 3-2 advantage, but the Meijirō responded again in the ninth to even the ballgame at 3-3.
"They did a good job with the hit and runs and bunting game," said Smith. "They're at a disadvantage, using the wooden bats, so they have to rely on that small stuff."
While it was possible for this exhibition contest to end in a tie, the Sun Devils had other plans.
A one-out double off the bat of Coltin Gerhart got the team's ninth inning rally started, and a Lillard walk paved the way for Andrew Snow to play hero. The second baseman lined a 3-2 pitch into left field, and Gerhart scored easily from second as the outfielder's throw pulled the catcher way off of home plate.
"(I haven't seen) nothing like that," Snow said after the fourth straight walk-off win. "I’ve gone seasons without walk-offs."
The Cardiac Devils entered the game coming off the heels of three consecutive walk-offs last weekend against UC Davis, not to mention a 14-inning win last Wednesday at Cal State Fullerton.
Arizona State will get back into regular season play this weekend with a three game set at Oregon State to open Pac-12 play. The series will begin on Friday at 5:35 p.m. in Corvallis.
"We are going to come out and play some great baseball up at Oregon State," says Snow. "The atmosphere and the fans are wild over there. I love that kind of baseball. It fires me up."