It's a testament to the Arizona State coaching staff and players that the Sun Devils were even playing on Sunday evening. Tracy Smith lost his Friday night starter in late February, he did not have his expected closer all season and the Sun Devils struggled to begin Pac-12 play, losing three of their first conference series.
Yet the Sun Devils battled. They won six straight series and finished tied for 3rd in the Pac-12. Like in the regular season, the Sun Devils battled in the Fort Worth Regional. After Seth Martinez got shelled on Friday, ASU staved off elimination on Saturday and Sunday afternoon.
On Sunday evening there would be no more late-season magic. The TCU Horned Frogs took an early lead and cruised to an 8-1 victory to advance to super regionals and eliminate the Sun Devils.
The Sun Devils have now been eliminated in the regional round of the NCAA Tournament in four straight seasons, the last time the maroon and gold made a super regional appearance was 2011.
Eder Erives took the mound for the Sun Devils, making his first appearance of the weekend. After a scoreless first, the Horned Frogs tagged Erives for three runs in the top of the second on a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded, an RBI double by Cam Warner and an RBI single by catcher Evan Skoug.
The Sun Devils put their first run across the plate in the bottom of the third when David Greer hit a seeing-eye single through the left side to score Jordan Aboites and pull ASU to within 3-1.
However, the rest of the game would be controlled by the Horned Frogs.
After taking a 4-1 lead in the seventh, TCU broke through with four runs in the eighth after Seth Martinez replaced Erives on the mound. For the weekend, Martinez allowed nine runs in just three innings, spanning two appearances.
TCU in 2016 has been led by its explosive offense, however Sunday night right hander Brian Howard turned in a dominant performance on the mound to propel TCU to the next round.
Howard tossed eight innings, scattering four hits, allowing one run and striking out nine. He retired the final 17 straight Sun Devils he faced.
The future looks bright in Tempe. Tracy Smith and his staff have assembled the nation's No. 1 recruiting class according to Perfect Game and ASU will return plenty of key cogs to its 2016 machine. That machine finishes the season with a 36-23 overall record.