One of them came easily, while the other required a bit more work.
But after nearly seven hours of baseball on Friday, the Arizona State baseball team accomplished what they had set out to do on the first day of the 2017 season.
“We are 2-0,” said head coach Tracy Smith after the doubleheader. “That’s what I’m talking about.”
The Sun Devils are indeed 2-0, clinching a series victory over visiting Northwestern after a pair of games on Friday at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. The doubleheader was played with the upcoming forecast for the Valley in mind, as inclement weather is expected to hit the area beginning on Saturday morning.
The day started with both teams struggling at the plate in game one as the two teams produced a combined two hits in the first three innings.
It was Arizona State who drew first blood, striking for a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth on a two-RBI double off the bat of Taiwan native Lyle Lin. That would prove to be all the Sun Devils needed in the season’s lid-lifter.
A dominant effort from starter Eli Lingos made life easy as the left-hander threw six-plus innings of scoreless baseball. The bullpen then took over and cruised the rest of the way, sealing the deal on a 3-1 victory to start the season.
“It was definitely up there for me as one of my better starts,” Lingos said after getting the win. “I really found my command in the later innings, so that helped a lot.”
But if Friday’s opener was a walk in the park, the nightcap was a risky late-night drive through a neighborhood on the wrong side of town.
The Wildcats (0-2) jumped out to an early 3-0 lead despite only tallying one hit across the game’s first five innings, scratching across their runs by taking advantage of multiple fielding errors by the home team’s defense.
The Maroon and Gold slowly battled back, however, picking up a run in the fifth on an Andrew Snow sacrifice fly and another in the seventh on an RBI single off the bat of Ryan Lillard.
“The thing about baseball is, you just keep plugging and eventually some of them will fall,” said Smith when asked about the start of his team’s comeback. “We just kept putting balls in play and strung some good at-bats together to give ourselves a chance.”
Those runs set the table for a ninth inning rally, one that started with a leadoff double from sophomore Gage Canning. Canning then came around to score on the next at-bat when Snow singled through the left side of the infield, tying the game at 3-3.
Reliever Matt Hopfner then entered the drama and was able to retire the next two Sun Devils, but another clutch single from Lin got pinch-runner Galvin Alston into scoring position with designated hitter Sebastian Zawada coming to the plate.
It was Zawada who then got to play hero, lacing the first pitch he saw from Hopfner into left field to easily score Alston and win the game.
“The odds were good that it (a big hit) was probably coming,” Zawada said. “I was seeing the ball pretty well tonight."
That couldn’t be said for every Sun Devil on Friday, but the team got enough big hits in enough big spots to come out unscathed on opening day.
Arizona State can now set its sights on a sweep of Northwestern as they look to send Spencer Allen’s club back to Evanston with an 11th consecutive loss against a Pac-12 opponent.
Saturday’s series finale is scheduled to begin at 1:00 p.m., with freshman Spencer Van Scoyoc getting the start on the mound for Smith’s team.