ASU baseball rallies in ninth inning, walks off to sweep Washington State

The Sun Devils have now won four straight

The Sun Devils were down 4-1 with two outs and nobody on in the ninth inning. After winning three in a row, it looked like ASU was going to drop its series finale to WSU.

But it’s like Sun Devil assistant coach Fred Nori said: Baseball is a funny game.

ASU (16-18, 5-10 Pac-12) got a much-needed win with its come-from-behind victory over the Cougars on Saturday afternoon. It was the team’s fourth straight victory, a sudden change after they had lost five straight from April 2 to April 9.

As a bonus for the weekend sweep, the Sun Devils are no longer in last place in the Pac-12.

“It was big, really big,” Nori said. “We haven’t had that in a while. Of any team that’s been around needed it, that team needed it. And the way we did it was special.”

The rally began in the ninth inning when, with two outs, junior infielders Andrew Snow and Taylor Lane each drew a walk. Then, the Sun Devil coaching staff sent junior Ryan Lillard to the plate as a pinch hitter for sophomore third baseman Jeremy McCuin.

Lillard hit a home run to straightaway center field to tie the game.

But the rally didn’t stop there, as sophomore outfielder Gage Canning followed with a two-out single. Junior outfielder Andrew Shaps was intentionally walked, and freshman standout Lyle Lin reached base on an odd infield hit.

That loaded the bases for freshman outfielder Hunter Bishop.

“With Hunter, we talked about ‘should we bring up a right-hander?’,” Nori said of the left-handed-hitting Bishop. “And I told (head coach) Tracy (Smith), ‘He’s supposed to be the next superstar. Let’s find out.’”

Bishop pounded a ball into right center field to plate the game-winning run.

“I was sitting slider, because the whole series I think I got two fastballs in six at bats,” Bishop said. “I knew they were going to come slider.”

He guessed correctly.

Before the ninth inning drama, junior left-hander Eli Lingos started the game for ASU.

The first inning was a bit of an oddity for Lingos, who technically allowed three runs on five hits in the opening frame. But upon closer look, it wasn’t that simple:

  • The first batter of the game fought to see eight pitches.
  • A double that landed in the right-center field gap was just out of reach for Canning, who appeared to hesitate on the play. It resulted in a double, but was nearly an out.
  • Another single was a pop-up in shallow left field, but freshman shortstop Carter Aldrete seemed to get jumbled-up on the ball’s angle. It fell into play and was ruled a single.
  • A slow-roller back to Lingos was right on the ground for him to fire to first base for a third out, but he fumbled it — that was also ruled a single.

In all, Washington State (15-17, 2-10 Pac-12) jumped out to a 3-0 lead as Lingos tossed a 19-pitch first inning.

“There were a couple fly balls that I think we could have got to,” Nori said. “I think what was amazing is that it would have been easy to quit there, but he pitched well after that. He shut them down.”

Lingos got right back to work for the second inning as the Sun Devil bats went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the first. In the top of the second, three base hits resulted in another Washington State run. Through an inning and a half, it was 4-0 Cougars.

After the second inning, Lingos settled in, pitching through the sixth inning and allowing just two hits in his final four frames of work.

His final line for the day: four runs on a whopping 11 hits with six strikeouts and, impressively, no walks.

After two walks from freshman lefty Spencer Van Scoyoc to start the seventh, sophomore left-hander Reagan Todd went to the bump and pitched the final three innings for the Sun Devils. Todd finished the game after facing 10 batters, allowing just one hit and no walks with a strikeout. He was credited with the win.

“It was tough with the whole Cal series going in there and getting swept, but our team was able to turn it around and find a reason to play and win,” Todd said. “We’ve still got things to play for. We’re still trying to do well in the Pac-12 and see if we’ll deal with the postseason maybe. But we’ve got to deal with it one game at a time. It’s momentum.”

Reach the reporter at or follow @Mattjlayman on Twitter.

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