After losing the first two games to Stanford in the weekend series, Arizona State came back to celebrate a win and another milestone in the program’s history with fireworks that brought applause from the fans in the stands.
But these fireworks came during Sunday’s finale in the bottom of the second inning and originated from the batter’s box where the Sun Devil hitters parked three consecutive home runs on just five pitches.
The senior catcher from Gilbert’s Highland High School, Max Rossiter, started the home-run display after his teammates had rallied to overcome a 2-0 deficit that Stanford created in the top half of the second. Rossiter’s blast, his first homer of the season, made it a 3-2 game and then the freshman catcher RJ Ybarra stepped in as the designated hitter. He put the second long ball over the left-center field fence, followed by a third from Trever Allen. For Allen, the redshirt sophomore right fielder from Corona del Sol High School in Tempe, it was his ninth homer this season to lead the team in that category.
With the 11-8 victory, ASU reached 30 wins to make it 51 consecutive years the program has posted a 30-win season, the most among NCAA Division I schools.
The largest crowd of the season was on hand Saturday, so they missed the Sunday pyrotechnics. But the 3,752 fans that jammed into Packard Stadium for the second game of the series got the drama of an extra-innings game with lots of offense – just no win.
There were 25 hits in the game and ASU actually held the edge there, with 14 of those. And some home runs as well, as Allen and Michael Benjamin each hit a solo blast.
And plenty of drama. The Sun Devils had a three-run lead in the seventh inning, but a three-run homer with two outs by the Cardinal center-fielder Austin Wilson tied it at 7-7 and set up the extra innings. After Stanford scored a pair of runs in the top of the 11th, ASU was primed for the win when it scored a run and then loaded the bases in the bottom half of the frame before a ground-out ended the comeback attempt.
Saturday’s 9-8 loss was the second of the series. In the opener, the Devils got into a five-run hole and a late-game rally came up short as the Cardinal won that one, 5-3.
The loss of the series to their Pac-12 opponent dropped the Devils from No. 8 (Baseball America ranking) to No. 13 and pulled Stanford up into the national rankings at No. 25.
Had ASU not rallied for the win in the finale, it would have marked the first time in six years that the Devils would have been swept in a home series.
They have just three more conference series left on the schedule, beginning this weekend in a three-game set with 10th-place California (21-26, 9-15) at Berkeley. ASU is three games behind UCLA, which is sitting in third place in the Pac-12.
At this point in the season, every win takes on a special significance. For ASU, the reward is being able to host their regional games at Packard Stadium in front of several thousand supportive fans.
That’s where the road to the College World Series will begin and home advantage can make the difference in moving on to the Super Regionals and, ultimately, a trip to Omaha.
Another stumble, like the one last weekend, could be very costly.
(Photo: ASU Athletics)