Not much separated Wichita State from the 22nd-ranked baseball team in the nation on Tuesday.
The Shockers and Arizona State shared the same total in hits (12) and left on base (14), but it was the Sun Devils who prevailed 4-3 on a bitter cold evening at Eck Stadium.
“We hit balls harder than they did, I thought,” WSU coach Gene Stephenson said. “They just went right to some people. But it doesn’t matter what I think. Bottom line, they won and it was a good ball game.”
The Shockers fell to 16-13 on the season and walked away feeling as if they let an opportunity to upend a ranked opponent slip away.
“We had a lot of opportunities to win that game,” WSU’s Johnny Coy said. “We had three or four times with the bases loaded and we didn’t cash in on any of them.”
The most excruciating time was in the bottom of the eighth inning with the score knotted at 3-3. Coy connected solidly on a 1-2 curveball over the outer part of the plate and sent it rocketing into the gap, but the brisk wind and cold air held the ball up long enough for Arizona State’s center fielder to track it down in the gap.
“I knew you were going to have to really hit it to hit it out,” Coy said. “I got all of it. I don’t know, if it’s a little warmer, maybe that ball goes out.”
Each team was faced with a two-out situation in the ninth inning to push across the run. Arizona State accomplished it and was the team that walked away with a victory.
The Sun Devils got their lead-off batter on when Albert Minnis issued a four-pitch walk to start the ninth inning. Two outs later, RJ Ybarra singled up the middle to score the game-winning run.
“It was a game where no one really got the big hit,” Arizona State coach Tim Esmay said. “So that lead-off walk in the ninth really was the difference.”
Wichita State threatened when Erik Harbutz singled with one out, stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch with two outs and Micah Green at the plate.
But Green couldn’t drive the ball out of the infield, popping up to first base to end the game.
“We hit the ball about as hard as you can hit it,” Stephenson said. “But sometimes in this game you don’t get rewarded and that’s it.”
Receiving a challenge from Wichita State wasn’t a surprised for the Sun Devils, fresh off a series victory over No. 4 UCLA over the weekend.
“I have total respect for this program and for the job Gene has done here,” Esmay said. “They’re well-coached and they know what they’re doing and they proved that here tonight.”
But the Shockers weren’t too interested in feeling good after a result like that.
“At the end of the day, it’s a loss any way you look at it,” Coy said. “We’ll just try to put it behind us and bounce back tomorrow.”
E — Bayliff. DP — ASU. LOB — ASU 14, WSU 14. 2B — Coffman (4), Gillaspie (9), Mucha (3). SB — Bobbit (4), Harbutz (5). CS — Gillaspie, Harbutz.
WP — Burr. HBP — Coffman, Rossiter (by Palmer). Umpires — Ben Harlow, home; Travis Olson, first; Randy Wetzel, third. T — 3:35. A — 2,480.