ASU baseball appeared to have everything under control. The Sun Devils led the Wildcats 6-4 entering the eighth inning, fresh off of four consecutive singles in the seventh to take the lead. ASU lost two leads prior, but redshirt freshman pitcher Graham Osman was left in the game after two shutout innings and ASU needed just six outs to tie the series.
But, Osman got into trouble. After a single, a walk and a hit batter, the bases were loaded with no outs. ASU's coaching staff left Osman in to face the top of the order, a decision that resulted in all three runners on base scoring. Arizona took a 7-6 lead and won by that score.
The Sun Devils had not trailed at any point during the first seven innings.
ASU head coach Tracy Smith explained that Osman, a lefty, stayed in the game because of the matchups. The top of Arizona's order is left-handed heavy.
Due to injuries, Osman was the only lefty in the pen to turn to, and therefore Smith felt they needed to "overextend" him on Friday.
"We had to stick with him longer than in a traditional sense would dictate," Smith said. "We didn't have another lefty to neutralize the matchups after so that was the basis of the decision."
The go-ahead run, though, was driven in by freshman switch-hitter Jacob Berry.
To Smith, an area in need of improvement is late-game execution. Aside from the eighth-inning pitching woes, the Sun Devil offense went 1-for-7 to close out the game and did not get a runner in scoring position in the final two innings.
The Sun Devils started off hot, though, with three runs in the first inning.
Redshirt junior shortstop Drew Swift jumped back into the lead-off spot after Smith tried him in the two-hole for a few games, and he tripled to start off the first. Redshirt freshmen Joe Lampe and Sean McLain followed him with a single and double, respectively.
McLain's double extended his hitting streak to 20 games, tied for the eighth-longest for a Sun Devil since 1998, per ASU media relations.
"Feels pretty special, but the end of the day we still lost the game," McLain said. "That's a cool list to be on. I'm excited, but we want to keep going."
But, for the next five innings, ASU mustered one run on three hits.
Arizona tied the game at 3-3 with a two-run blast by center fielder Donta Williams off of starting pitcher redshirt sophomore Tyler Thornton in the fourth inning, then tied it again at 4-4 with a truly bizarre run in the sixth.
Outfielder Tanner O'Tremba hit a sharp ground ball down the third-base line. Redshirt junior left fielder Hunter Jump ran towards the wall in foul ground to field it. Jump's foot got stuck underneath the wall, and he tried to yank it out. It did not budge, and the ball was a few feet behind him. O'Tremba came all the way around to score on the play, one that Smith said he has never seen before.
"There's no rule allowance for a player being wedged or lodged into a wall or a fence or anything like that," Smith said. "It's all obviously set up for the ball ... the fact that he got his foot caught in a fence that it doesn't matter, so they let the play happen."
The three-game series wraps up and ASU will play to avoid a sweep on Saturday at 7 p.m. MST. The two rivals will compete again in a midweek game on Tuesday in Tucson.
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