We continue to blaze through the first round of our #SunDevilMoments series. We are down to our final two matchups of the first round before the quarterfinals begin on Friday. Let's take a look at how the bracket stands as of now.
(Note: Women's basketball is currently leading Phelps joining the Curtain. Voting is still open in that matchup until 2 p.m. MT on Wednesday).
#SunDevilMoments First Round - Seed No. 3: Ryan Hingst's No-Hitter vs. Seed No. 14: Kalen Ballage trucking an Oregon defender
Needless to say, the Arizona State baseball team needed something, anything, to happen.
Coming into a late-March game against lowly Utah, the Sun Devils had dropped five straight games and were in danger of losing all momentum gained from a surprising 13-3 start to the year.
Then, Ryan Hingst stepped up.
Almost out of nowhere, the sophomore right-hander pieced together one of the greatest pitching performances in program history, methodically making his way through the Ute lineup time and again. He hit one batter and allowed two others to reach via walks, but when center fielder Andrew Shaps camped under the 27th and final out of the night, it was official.
Hingst had thrown the 10th no-hitter in Arizona State history.
It took the righty 121 pitches to complete the game, which, as head coach Tracy Smith put it after, was right where his limit was.
"121 (pitches) is what we set it at," joked Smith. "Thank God he got him on that last pitch, because we were going to take him out."
The no-hitter was the first since 2013, when Ryan Kellogg accomplished the same feat against Oregon State.
As the season progressed, Hingst's act proved to be even more impressive. While Utah was just 7-13 at the time, the team would go on to win the Pac-12 and take the conference's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
The no-hitter also seemed to spark the Sun Devils, who went on to win seven of their next eight series. Smith's young team ended up earning a No. 2 seed into the NCAA Tournament, eventually advancing to the Fort Worth Regional final before falling to host TCU.
During the 2015-16 season, any Sun Devils football fan could tell you how head coach Todd Graham proclaimed his squad was the most talented unit he had possessed since arriving in Tempe.
However, by the time ASU was hosting the Oregon Ducks halfway through its campaign in late October, the team's record didn't suggest it was Graham's best group yet. Instead, the Sun Devils entered the Thursday night contest 4-3, coming off a bye week following their 34-18 road loss against then-No. 4 ranked Utah.
Uncertainty for the future of the season loomed, and taking on a potent Ducks offense only added to it. But on that night, ASU fans were able to revel in what was a glimpse of their team's offense playing at near-maximized potential, with its star backfield duo at the very center of its production.
Sophomore running backs Demario Richard (19 rushes, 135 yards, TD) and Kalen Ballage (12 rushes, 127 yards) combined for 262 of the Sun Devils' 344 rushing yards against the Ducks. It appeared Oregon had no answer for either player, as they gashed and bashed the Ducks defense, rattling off five-, seven- and 10-yard gains with ease.
For Ballage, his 127 rushing yards set a new career-high.
His most memorable contribution though, came with just under four minutes left in the third quarter when ASU led 31-27. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Ballage ran the ball off-tackle towards the near-side of the field, turned the corner, nearly lost his balance trying to tight-rope the sideline, then regained his footing before flattening Oregon's 6-foot-4 defensive back Tyree Robinson on a 33-yard run.
The play was one of the many examples on the evening which conveyed the potential the Colorado native possesses.
The Sun Devils' drive would stall a couple plays later, and ultimately ASU would fall in triple-overtime, 61-55. Between the fourth quarter and three overtime periods, Ballage (2 rushes, -1 yard) and Richard (3 rushes, 8 yards) only touched the ball a combined five times for seven yards, despite the tandem logging its best joint performance to date.
Entering the 2016 season, Ballage and Richard are expected to lead and carry an inexperienced ASU offense. Showings similar to the one against Oregon will (almost unfairly) be expected, but there's no doubting that the juniors are capable of playing at a high-level consistently. Many believe the pairing of Ballage and Richard will rival past ASU backfield couplings, such as Marion Grice and DJ Foster.
Last season, this belief wasn't able to be realized when the year started, as Ballage missed the first three contests with mononucleosis. This year, Ballage has said he's looking to help the team put the disappointment of last season behind them, and expects to be a focal point of what looks to be a run-oriented offensive scheme.
With that said, exhilarating plays like this one shouldn't be too hard to come by from him if he's able to see the field in full capacity in 2016.
You can watch our No. 14 moment of the ASU athletic year here.
Now it is your turn to vote and see which moment will make it to the quarterfinals.