The clock struck 7:12 p.m. at Surprise Stadium and senior reliever Matt Dunbar threw the first pitch of the top of the eighth inning with No. 25 ASU baseball leading 5-1 over Gonzaga.
In any normal college baseball game, that wouldn’t merit any attention.
In the final game of the Coca-Cola Classic, though, it did.
The Bulldogs (6-4-1) had a 9:00 flight to catch but played like they wanted to miss it, scoring five runs in the top of the eighth to take a 6-5 lead over the Sun Devils (7-2-1). The game eventually finished in a 6-6 tie after eight innings.
The game, originally scheduled to start at 4 p.m., didn’t start until after 5 p.m. and no inning was allowed to start after 7:15 p.m. in an effort to cater to Gonzaga.
“We just happened to have a short seventh inning, so we kept playing,” ASU coach Tim Esmay said.
The extra three minutes hurt the Sun Devils, who were were attempting to win their fifth straight ball game and sweep the Coca Cola Classic.
The Sun Devils didn’t come out ready to play in the eighth and gave up five runs, all unearned, because of two errors by junior third baseman Michael Benjamin.
Esmay was disappointed in his team’s eighth inning letdown, especially with how well they had been closing out games.
“All weekend, we did a good job of not opening the door,” Esmay said. “We opened up the door in the eighth inning.”
The Sun Devils grabbed the lead on the first batter of the game, though, when junior outfielder Kasey Coffman took Bulldog senior starter Billy Moon deep for his first career homerun.
Coffman racked up three hits total on the night and Esmay was impressed with the performance.
“Kasey was great,” Esmay said. “Kasey was great all tournament. He’s been doing a good job in the leadoff spot.”
The Sun Devils added two more runs in the first with RBIs from sophomore catcher Nathaniel Causey and Benjamin.
The Sun Devils extended their lead to 5-0 in the third and gave some breathing room to sophomore starter Adam McCreery.
McCreery posted the fourth consecutive Sun Devil outing of the weekend, going five innings and allowing seven hits and only one run while fanning four.
Esmay was happy to see McCreery get on track after struggling in his first two outings.
“Adam pitched well today,” Esmay said. “That’s his best outing so far this year. I was excited about him.”
Dunbar came in to replace McCreery and allowed only one baserunner in the sixth and seventh innings combined.
Esmay threw him back out there for the eighth inning, a decision he doesn’t regret.
“He hadn’t pitched in a week and a half so he needed to throw and he was fresh and he was the guy we wanted on the mound,” Esmay said.
The Sun Devils almost came out with a loss, but redshirt sophomore outfielder Trever Allen led off the bottom of the inning with a towering home run to left.
“Thank goodness that Trever Allen hit the homerun or else we walk out of here with a big time loss,” Esmay said. “It was a huge at-bat.”
Esmay was pleased with his team’s overall performance on the weekend, which finished 3-0-1 for the Sun Devils.
“I thought our kids played well all weekend minus one inning,” Esmay said.
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