Arizona State Sun Devils coach Tracy Smith has preached that consistency is the key to success for his unit this year. Following Saturday's win over the Washington Huskies, Smith and his players said they hoped they could use the momentum of the victory to channel the consistency they've searched for all season.
Unfortunately, the momentum didn't quite carry over for the group on Sunday as the Sun Devils (17-12, 4-8 Pac-12) were unable to come away with their second Pac-12 series win of the season.
A two-hour, 25-minute rain delay interrupted the Sun Devils' eventual 6-1 defeat at the hands of the Huskies (16-11, 7-5) in the series rubber match at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
"I think both teams sat through the ran delay, and (Washington) had a way (to win) and they figured it out," Smith said of the delay's role in the loss. "We needed to (find a way to win) as well."
The contest fell at the mercy of the elements three innings in, when heavy rain finally brought the game to a standstill.
The weather-influenced pause marked the first time an ASU baseball game had been delayed by rain since May 15, 2015, when the Sun Devils lost 1-0 to Washington State. The tilt went 10 innings and included a seven-inning gem from Brett Lilek during which he tossed for a career-high 11 strikeouts.
This time around, however, ASU didn't have an ace to rely on to keep its opponent at bay.
Right-hander Chris Isbell (3 H, BB, 3 K) took the mound in his first career start, tossing 3.1 scoreless innings before the delay.
"We probably weren't gonna go long with Chris (Isbell) anyway," Smith said. "I felt like he gave us more than really we were even expecting, so I felt pretty good going back out there."
Out of the break, left-hander Reagan Todd was inserted. In the top of the fifth, he conceded a walk to the lead off batter, before issuing two more passes to load the bases.
Facing Huskies designated hitter Gage Matuszak, Todd battled back from a 3-0 count to fill it at 3-2, but walked him to bring in the first run of the day.
Left-hander Eli Lingos was called to get out of the bases loaded jam, but on the first pitch he threw, Huskies catcher Joey Morgan plated two more runs to give Washington a 3-0 lead.
On the day, Washington was 3-for-10 with two outs, and finished 5-for-16 with runners in scoring position. Conversely, ASU finished 1-for-10 with two outs and 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position.
"I would have liked to have seen us be more competitive in our at-bats earlier in the game," Smith said. "I think they were trying to exactly what we were trying to do which was steal some innings early."
ASU's offense couldn't find the spark which ignited their outburst the day before, managing just two hits and one run on the day.
Smith said his unit's bats appeared to be stymied despite getting the ball in play throughout the contest. Sun Devil batters only struck out three times, but only manufactured one run.
"Just truly a struggle offensively today," Smith said. "The most disappointing piece for me when you look back at the box score is we only left four guys on (base) too, so we weren't threatening.
"Kind of tough to score runs when you don't have guys on base."
The group's ineffectiveness at the plate was reinforced by a platooned effort from the mound.
In total, the ASU bullpen deployed six different pitchers, with Ryan Hingst, Tucker Baca and James Ryan making appearances throughout the rain-soaked contest.
Against those three relievers, Washington scored three more runs in the eighth inning alone, pushing ASU's deficit to 6-1.
Smith said the consistency on the mound is something the team is still fighting to find, but is understanding of the situation the group is in as far as lacking a complete, nonetheless experienced staff.
"You look for consistency," he said. "Right now we do not have a lot of guys who are doing it at a level of consistency that you need to be in this conference. I'm not angry at the guys, I'm not mad at the guys for that; it's just that's where we are right now."
The series win would have given ASU its second conference series win of the season, coming off of its first against Washington State.
Smith said he knows this isn't necessarily a World Series-caliber squad, but still holds his current roster to a standard of excellence.
"We've got enough talent in that room to figure out a way to piece together, if you will, two games on a weekend," he said. "We've just got to find a way to do that.
"I'm a little disappointed in how that unfolded this weekend. But, going forward, there's a lot of baseball season left, there's a lot of conference games left, and we can do that."
The next opportunity for the Sun Devils to channel the consistency their skipper desires will come in the form of a one-game stand against rival Arizona on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Phoenix Municipal Stadium.