Barry Bonds threw out the first pitch in his return to his alma mater. Greg Maddux - serving as the pitching coach for UNLV - stared out from the third base dugout with the same intensity he emitted during his Hall of Fame career.
It was definitely not a normal night at Phoenix Muni.
As for the Arizona State Sun Devils? Well, if they were starstuck, it didn’t show.
The UNLV Rebels tagged ASU starter Zach Dixon for four runs in 1 2⁄3 innings pitched, but the Sun Devil offense rattled off five unanswered runs over the remaining course of the game to take the mid-week tilt 5-4.
Arizona State’s victory ups the Sun Devils’ record to 11-12 (2-5 Pac-12) heading into the weekend’s three-game set against UCLA. Left-handed pitcher Connor Higgins received the W for the Sun Devils, pitching 4.2 innings of hitless ball to stymy the Rebel offense and open the door for ASU’s bats.
Trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the fifth, Arizona State’s Carter Aldrete reached base on a single to center field, setting the table for designated hitter Tyler Williams to blast off. Williams corked a two-run shot over the left field wall, pushing ASU ahead for the first time all night.
Once handed the lead, Higgins didn’t relent in his aggression, striking out five Rebels and shutting the door on UNLV with the ninth-inning save. The sophomore closed the game out with authority, striking out the side in the ninth to cinch the win.
ASU starter Dixon allowed a single to Kyle Isbel to lead off the opening frame, and Ernie De La Trinidad brought him home with a grounder that just evaded the glove of a diving Andrew Snow as UNLV took a 1-0 lead to the second inning.
The contest - and Dixon’s night - blew open in the second inning as the ASU left-hander allowed back-to-back singles before facing Isbel for the second time in as many frames. Once again - the UNLV leadoff man got the better of Dixon, lacing a double to the right field wall to score one run and put Payton Squier in position to bring home two more.
Isbel’s second at-bat was the last that Dixon would record, as freshman right-hander Alec Marsh came into replace the sophomore - aiming to prevent a 2-0 lead from doubling. The runs were added to Dixon’s line, but it was Squier’s single up the middle off of Marsh that pushed home two more Rebel runs.
Trailing 4-0 heading into the third inning, ASU found a spark in the form of Gage Canning - whose transition from hitting leadoff to the lineup’s ninth spot paid dividends. With two outs and a pair of runners on, Canning roped a triple to right field to halve the lead at 4-2. A Zach Cerbo sacrifice fly plated another run in the fourth inning, setting up Williams’ climatic two-run shot.
Arizona State returns to action on Friday, as the Sun Devils will host UCLA, who enter their conference showdown in Tempe coming off a sweep of California.