Baseball is a game of luck. Sometimes balls find holes in the defense and sometimes you’re left wondering “what if?”
The Arizona State Sun Devils (6-6) found that out the hard way Sunday afternoon, falling 3-2 to the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
Tied at 2-2 in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Sun Devils had freshman second baseman Alika Williams at the plate with runners on first and second with two out. Junior Gage Canning, who leads the NCAA in hits, stood on deck, waiting for his chance.
After working the count to 1-1, Williams cracked a ground ball. Unfortunately for Williams and ASU, it went right to Cowboys sophomore shortstop Cameron Dobbs, who quickly turned an inning-ending twin killing to send the game into extras.
After two quick outs in the top of the 10th, sophomore Chaz Montoya walked a batter, then gave up a first-pitch single to the next, putting a runner in scoring position. Next up was sophomore second baseman Ryan Cash, who dribbled a ball through the right side of the infield to bring home the eventual winning run.
“If you were to ask any baseball person — outside of the result — which would you prefer to have, a well-hit ball or one that you kind of cap or whatever,” Smith said. “I think most people would say I’d rather have a well-hit ball. Sometimes it goes at the person.”
But the Sun Devils had their chances.
After taking an early lead on an RBI single by freshman third baseman Gage Workman in the bottom of the third inning, redshirt freshman pitcher Dellan Raish immediately gave the lead back, giving up two runs in just 0.1 innings of his work.
Oklahoma State maintained the lead for two innings, before a familiar face sprung up again.
Freshman left fielder Spencer Torkelson took a 3-1 pitch over the wall in dead centerfield to tie the game up. It was his seventh home run of the young season, inching him closer to the ASU freshman record of 11 held by Barry Bonds.
“He’s a special hitter,” Smith said. “I would tell everybody, ‘enjoy this one,’ because he’s one of those rare hitters that don’t come around very often.”
Despite the loss, Smith and company had a distinctly positive message afterward. Understandable, considering the team won its first series of the season with a 25-6 run advantage over the Cowboys in three games.
“I can’t sit here now and have, honestly, a complaint and say ‘gosh darn it, we just didn’t play well,’” Smith said. “I thought we played really good baseball all weekend. Sometimes you’re going to run into that, just like today.”
And that may have something to do with how the team is coming together.
After the headline-making tensions surrounding the 2017 team, the young Sun Devils are forming into something with each passing day. Smith described them at this stage as “a friggin’ high school all-star team,” but sophomore pitcher Alec Marsh, who started and went the first three innings, said things are beginning to change with the series win.
“This is huge,” Marsh said. “This is my second year here and this is the first time I felt like everybody was in every single inning for all three games. I really like where we’re headed, for sure. I’m really excited to see what happens this year.”
The Sun Devils will next play Tuesday at Pepperdine, where typical Sunday starter Boyd Vander Kooi will take on the Waves before hosting UNC-Wilmington next weekend.