There was no tinge of patience in Andrew Shaps as he stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth.
Sure - there were two outs and ASU needed two runs to avoid dropping the series opener to Long Beach State. But Shaps wasn’t waiting to find his pitch.
He saw the first pitch, and pounced.
Shaps connected on a two-run homer over the right field wall, igniting Phoenix Municipal Stadium and saving Arizona State from what would’ve been a fifth-consecutive loss. His dinger tied the game at 6-6, and ASU would push the winning run home the following inning to complete the comeback and open the three-game set against the Dirtbags with a 7-6 victory.
“Honestly, I don’t even remember (the at-bat),” Shaps said. “I was thinking he was gonna throw me a fastball. He started the first two or three batters off that inning with a fastball so I saw it and it was up - I tried to put a good piece on it.”
His bomb in the ninth was the culmination of a roller coaster night for the junior. 0-4 headed into his climatic at-bat, Shaps twice had opportunities to collect RBI’s and bring ASU within shouting distance of the Dirtbags in earlier frames but couldn’t convert.
Shaps wasn’t even slated to take the plate in the ninth inning, and things were looking like he wouldn’t get his chance at redemption as Josh Advocate mowed through the first two Sun Devil batters. Gage Canning - who collected his third three-hit game of the season - extended the night with a poked ball that the Long Beach State shortstop couldn’t corral, setting the stage for Shaps’ dramatics.
Having that extra opportunity was enough to energize him.
“It was unreal - it really was. First off you have to credit Gage for the game he had and his at-bat in the ninth to even getting me that opportunity,” Shaps said. “The times before where I came up with runners in scoring position and not being able to capitalize on that, that’s what made it more meaningful to help the team out.”
Shaps’ first opportunity to do damage came in the fifth inning, as two Sun Devils were in scoring position after Hunter Bishop’s homer opened ASU’s scoring account and Canning’s sacrifice fly decreased the deficit to 5-2. With an opportunity to tie the game with one swing, Shaps grounded out to end the scoring threat and keep Long Beach State comfortably-ahead.
His second chance came in the seventh inning, as Zach Cerbo and Jeremy McCuin sat at second and third as ASU stared at a 6-3 deficit. Andrew Snow’s pinch-hit RBI groundout set the stage for Shaps, and once the junior worked himself into a 3-0 count the ball was in his court.
He swung at the next pitch, poking a measly grounder to end the threat.
Shaps was quick to remind post-game that his frustration wasn’t with his decision to swing on a 3-0 pitch, but rather what he did with the pitch.
“I wasn’t very happy with myself, and it wasn’t because I was 0-4,” Shaps said. “It was because there was multiple times - I think that was the third time in the ninth - that I came up with runners in scoring position with a pretty close game and it was very frustrating to not be able to help out my team. So I was really happy to do that tonight.”
The season’s been a learning curve for Shaps, who entered Friday’s game batting .281 with only two extra-base hits and one homer to show for his 2017 production.
“It has been a little bit of a grind to get back on track,” Shaps said. “I’d be lying if I said I’ve been comfortable at the plate the whole year. But game by game, I’m getting there, slowly getting there.”
Now that ASU’s broken its losing streak - and in some fashion - Shaps and the Sun Devils float into Saturday afternoon’s rematch with the Dirtbags knowing the worst is behind them.
“I think we’re coming together as a team, and one of the things we’re really trying to highlight is confidence,” Shaps said. “Not just confidence in each other but self-confidence, believing in yourself and knowing you’re going to go out and do your job. We did that tonight and it showed.”