Following up his heroics from the night before, designated hitter Sebastian Zawada once again served as the catalyst for the Arizona State Sun Devils' offense, hitting a pair of multi-run homers during the Sun Devils' 8-1 win over the Eastern Michigan Eagles at Phoenix Municipal Staudium on Sunday.
The Sun Devils (8-3) completed a three-game sweep of the Eastern Michigan Eagles (4-8) thanks to an all-around performance centered around both strong pitching and an offensive uproar.
The ASU batters responded to last night's sluggish offensive start with much more aggressive performance in the series finale, highlighted by Zawada's five RBI.
""His position is the batter's box," coach Tracy Smith said of his player's recent form. "We expect the power out of him. We saw it in the fall and he's starting to feel more comfortable now, too. He got some pitches in some hittable counts today, and did what he was supposed to do."
In the bottom of the second, shortstop Colby Woodmansee led things off with a single off of EMU right-hander Augie Gallardo. Zawada followed that with a one-out single to left field for ASU's second hit of the day.
Second baseman Andrew Snow hit into a fielder's choice to advance Woodmansee to third, placing runners on the corners with two outs.
On the ensuing at-bat, Snow darted from first to second. Eagles catcher Jeremy Stidham attempted to hose him down, but Snow slid safely in.
Meanwhile, as the action unfolded at second, Woodmansee dashed home. The throw back to the plate was late, and ASU took a 1-0 lead.
"I thought we executed well offensively in that," Smith said. "It was good to finally put it into a game context."
In the sixth inning, the Sun Devils' offense exploded, en route to creating a sizable margin.
With the score tied at 1-1, third baseman Jeremy McCuin led the segment off with a double to left field. Center fielder Andrew Shaps sliced a pitch down the right-field line for an RBI-triple on the ensuing at-bat, plating McCuin to reclaim a 2-1 advantage for ASU.
First baseman David Greer continued the assault on the next at-bat, bringing Shaps in via an RBI single of his own.
With two outs and Greer still on first, Zawada stepped in to the box, then launched a pitch over the left-field wall for his second home run of the year, extending the Sun Devils' advantage to 5-1.
In the bottom of the eighth, the sophomore transfer stepped up with runners on first and second. He proceeded to connect for his second home run of the afternoon, making the score 8-1 and all but ensuring the Sun Devils' sweep.
"My swing and my approach is definitely coming through right now," Zawada said. "[I'm] finally getting extremely comfortable out there."
Starting left-hander Eli Lingos was solid on the mound, relinquishing just one run, three hits and three walks, while striking out two.
He was very efficient early on, getting through the first four innings having allowed just one hit and one walk, while striking out two on 47 pitches.
Smith said his starter's location was the key to him thriving.
"He was doing a really good job locating his two-seamer off the outer half, and he was able to drop the change up in there to keep them honest with it," Smith said. "This game is about location and not necessary velocity."
His lone mistake occurred in the top of the fifth, when he gave up a solo home run to EMU first baseman Mitchell McGeein, tying the score at 1-1.
In the top of the sixth, he needed to manage with runners on the corners and two outs after allowing a walk and a single with one out.
Following a mound visit, EMU left fielder Mike Mioduszewski attempted to steal second. Sun Devils catcher Zach Cerbo fired to second base, but was unable to get him out. Eagles designated hitter Brennan Williams began to head for home, but Woodmansee threw back to the plate in time, recording the third out to get Lingos out of the inning unscathed.
Lingos was credited with his second victory of the season, tossing 88 pitches in 6.2 innings of work before being relieved by right-hander Ryan Hingst. Hingst lasted 1.1 innings, striking out two before giving way to Garvin Alston. Alston pitched for two-thirds of an inning before Smith called on Greer to get the final out.
Smith said he was happy Lingos was able to throw as long as he did, citing the current state of the bullpen's depth and health as reason.
"Our mindset is we have to figure out how we can win each game," he said. "To get six and two-thirds out of him, that was big."
The defense behind the mound was integral to the team's success on the day, too. The Sun Devils managed to get through the entire game without committing a single error.
Lingos was grateful and lauded his teammates' consistency.
"It's very helpful," Lingos said. "Every ball hit you kind of trust them to make the play. You don't have any doubt that they'll make a mistake."
Next up for ASU is a midweek series visit to Cal State Fullerton. The team believes that the sweep this weekend served as a needed confidence boost ahead of not only their next matchup, but beyond.
"It definitely helped set the tone, get us rolling as we go into [Cal State Fullerton]," Lingos said. "We need to win some of these games this week and it really going into conference play."
The Sun Devils' first game against Cal State Fullerton will take place on Tuesday, March 8, at Goodwin Field in Fullerton, Calif., with the first pitch slated to be thrown at 7 p.m.
Smith said that he has yet to decide on what the midweek rotation will be.