Having erupted for 12 runs the night before, nothing came easy for the Arizona State Sun Devils during their tilt with the Eastern Michigan Eagles at Phoenix Municipal Stadium on Saturday.
In a hard-fought battle that lasted 11 innings, the Sun Devils (7-3) prevailed, securing a 5-4 win over the Eagles (4-7) thanks to a walk-off single by designated-hitter Sebastian Zawada.
"Basically, I adjusted from the last at-bat," Zawada said. "I knew I was getting a slider and got it first pitch, took advantage of it."
ASU's offense remained quiet early, struggling to get much going through the first seven innings. Meanwhile, its pitching staff combined to keep the game close, holding EMU's offense at bay for a majority of the contest.
However, the bullpen also had issues its own, particularly in maintaining composure. The unit combined to hit seven batters during the contest, fumbling a chance to win the game in the process.
Still, ASU managed to overcome the shaky showing en route to earning the win.
"I've said it a thousand times, we're probably not gonna win pretty," said ASU coach Tracy Smith. "To come back and find a way to win, that type of ball game -- where you hit seven guys -- I'll find some positive in that."
The offense rallied late, capturing the late-inning magic that characterized its 2015-16 campaign so often.
"It's almost like a flashback," said ASU shortstop Colby Woodmansee. "I think that's something that's instilled in our core guys from last year, knowing that we don't have to ever give up."
The Sun Devils offense combined to go 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position through the first seven innings, but came to life, seemingly just in time.
With the bases loaded and one out in the seventh, catcher Brian Serven (2-for-6, RBI, K) singled to left-center off of EMU reliever Tyler Butzin, bringing in center fielder Andrew Shaps (3-for-6, R) to tie the game at 2-2.
With the bases still loaded, Zawada hit into a fielder's choice at shortstop, but managed to drive in first baseman David Greer (1-for-5, 2 R), giving ASU its first lead of the game, 3-2.
Once ASU gained a one-run advantage in the eighth, closer Eder Erives (4.0 IP, 1 ER, 5 K, 2 BB) entered with a chance to claim his third save of the season.
He was able to get through the eighth unscathed, but the junior ended up blowing his first save chance of the season.
With two outs, he hit two-consecutive batters, walking in the game-tying run in the bottom of the ninth, tying the game at 3-3, and extending the bout to extra innings.
"The message tomorrow: don't hit guys," said Smith.
After hitting his fourth batter of the night in the tenth inning, Erives found himself in another bases-loaded scenario facing Eagles shortstop Marquise Gill.
Gill hit a sacrifice fly to center field, giving EMU a 4-3 lead.
With one out in the 11th inning, Woodmansee (1-for-4, 1 RBI, 1 R) drilled a double deep to center field, bringing in Greer to even the score at 4-4 with one out. It was the Sun Devils' first extra-base hit of the game.
Smith said he thought it was the biggest hit of the evening.
"That was the key of the baseball game," he said. "He's a great player. Great players have a knack of doing that stuff."
The Sun Devils took advantage of the sudden shift in momentum, as Serven stepped up and singled to advance Woodmansee to third, pitting the game-winnning run just 90 feet away with Zawada up to bat.
He came through, plating the game-winning run, giving the Sun Devils their first walk-off win of the year.
Smith said that he was happy his team was able to win the way that it did.
"You had a little bit of everything in there," he said. "You don't start well and kind of a struggle all night; to do that and still find a way to win, in spite of almost giving it away, crazy as it sounds, I like that we didn't panic and we just kept playing."
Erives was credited with the win, his first of the year.
Starter Reagan Todd (1-1) was pulled after going 4.2 innings. He finished having allowed 9 hits, 2 earned runs and 2 walks, while striking out 3 batters.
"It was a gutty performance," Smith said of the freshman's showing. "It wasn't his strongest performance. We've gotta do a better job of putting guys away with two strikes."
Right-hander James Ryan (1.0 IP, 2 H), left-hander Tyler Baca (0.1 IP) and right-hander Eric Melbostad (1.0 IP, 2 K) each aided in relief of Reagan, managing to hold the deficit at one.
Despite the less-than-stellar performance from the bullpen, Zawada was still defendant of the group.
"Even though that happened, the pitchers are still getting it done," he said.
Smith said that Eli Lingos (1-1, 5.40 ERA) will take the mound in the series finale on Sunday, when ASU will look to earn its second series sweep of the season against EMU at 12:30 p.m. at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.