Man often looks to the sky for answers and, whether by coincidence or by fate (or both), the sky told the story as to how Saturday's matchup between the Arizona State Sun Devils and Washington Huskies would go.
Sunshine brightly descended upon Phoenix Municipal Stadium at the start of the contest. Soon enough, however, clouds casted shadows over the diamond. But, just as the sky seemed to settle, the sun broke through, shining without hindrance the rest of the day.
The matchup below mirrored the heavens above, as the Sun Devils (17-7, 4-7) outlasted a cloudy start before emerging with the 6-3 victory.
"Multiple guys, I thought, stepped up today," said Arizona State coach Tracy Smith. "It was a good thing to see."
In just his second start of the season, Eder Erives (4-0, 3.37 ERA) was dominant. He relinquished just five hits and three runs (two earned) in seven innings of work.
He fanned nine batters in lieu of walking four as well, and Smith attributed the starter's success to his ability to change pitch speeds.
"He held us in there and gave a chance to win," Smith said. "I thought he was stellar again in that starting role, and we needed it. I was very pleased and proud of his performance today. I was very impressed with his ability to change speeds in the zone on them all day."
Erives was in full control of his velocity throughout the entire contest. Despite tossing 107 pitches, he was able to touch anywhere from 91 mph to 78 mph until he was removed. He said being on page with his catcher Brian Serven has been key to his recent success in a starting role after serving from the bullpen.
"It's kind of the same mentality going out there," Erives said of the transition. "(It's about) executing some pitches, get guys out. Once you get rolling, you get rolling. You get in your grove, and you just keep going."
Amidst Erives' roll, the Huskies (15-10, 6-4 Pac-12) managed to gain a 2-0 advantage in partial thanks to the small-ball tactics of Huskies coach Lindsay Meggs. In both the second and fourth frames, Huskies right fielder M.J. Hubbs worked his way from first to home.
However, the Sun Devils offense responded, utilizing small-ball tactics of their own while making use of timely at-bats to ensure that Erives' quality start didn't go to waste.
In the fourth inning, Serven knocked an RBI-single into left field. Then, in the fifth, shortstop Colby Woodmansee (3 for 5, HR, 3 RBI, 3 R) leveled the score with a two-out RBI single. Smith praised him for stepping up when the team needed it.
"Good players get the big hits when we need the big hits," Smith said.
Altogether, the group tallied 14 hits, an effort spearheaded by Woodmansee's go-ahead, two-run home run in the seventh inning.
The blast was Woodmansee's fourth of the season, and gave the Sun Devils a 4-3 advantage. Smith said that his team was much more relaxed at the plate today.
"I think our at-bats were much more focused today," he said. "I think once we got the big one from Woody to tie the game that maybe got the monkey off our back. But guys were more relaxed, and what I mean by that is more focused. Our plate discipline was good today."
The Sun Devils' lead grew to 6-3 after first baseman David Greer launched a two-run home run of his own in the bottom of the eighth, all but cementing the win for ASU.
Right-hander Ryan Hingst ensured the victory by tossing two scoreless innings en route to claiming his first save of the season. Smith said after the game that Hingst could very well see action in the series rubber match on Sunday.
"We've got all of them ready — (Chris) Isbell, (Reagan) Todd, Hingst will come back probably," Smith said. "We're gonna use them all tomorrow. Our plan is, we'll probably use a lot of matchups (against Washington) anyway."
The Sun Devils will look to claim their second straight Pac-12 series of the season when they face the Huskies at 12 p.m. Sunday at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.