It’s a good thing the Arizona State baseball team doesn’t have another game until the end of the week. That should give them enough time to recover from the huge dent in their psyche that had to follow their final game of the regular season on Sunday.
The final score in that game against USC looked like the halftime score for a very lopsided basketball game: 31-9.
That embarrassment will no doubt still be fresh in their minds as they prepare this week for Friday’s noon contest with Gonzaga as the Devils embark on the first step on the road to the College World Series. ASU got an at-large bid into the Fort Worth Regional, which also includes Oral Roberts and the host and No. 1 seed Texas Christian.
The Sun Devils were given a No. 2 seed after finishing the season with 34 wins and tied for third place in the Pac-12 with University of Arizona and Oregon State. The Wildcats also made it into the 64-team field, but the Beavers did not, a snub that is getting plenty of media attention.
Four Pac-12 teams are still playing: the Arizona schools, Washington, and conference champion Utah.
After winning six straight series, the Sun Devils had momentum heading into the postseason. But that final game with USC put an end to that string of successes in devastating fashion.
The 31 runs given up by ASU was the most in program history. From the first inning on, when the Trojans jumped out to a five-run lead, the game was a living nightmare for the 2,259 Sun Devil fans that braved the 94-degree heat to watch their team wrap up the regular season.
USC scored at least one run in seven of the nine innings – and piled up 30 hits in a game that lasted four hours.
Twelve of the 14 USC batters had at least one hit, while 13 of 14 reached base at least once. Three players had four hits apiece as ASU went through nine pitchers trying to stop the bleeding.
This was the first time in 12 years that the Trojans have won a series against ASU in Tempe. But they made up for lost time with this win, which also set a program record for that school with the most runs in a single game.
With that disaster behind them, the Sun Devils are now looking ahead to their regional opener with No. 3-seeded Gonzaga, which also received an at-large berth after winning the West Coast Conference regular-season title. The last time the Zags made it into the NCAA Tournament was 2009.
Their records are similar, with ASU going 34-21 (same as last year) and Gonzaga 35-19. But the Zags are tough to beat on the road. Their 23 wins away from home are second-most in the nation.
This will be ASU’s 33rd NCAA Regional and 16th consecutive postseason appearance – every year with the exception of 2012 when they weren’t eligible for postseason play due to NCAA sanctions. This will be the second under head coach Tracy Smith, who took over the program for the 2015 season.
If the Sun Devils win in Fort Worth, it will be their 20th regional title.
The winner of the double-elimination Fort Worth Regional will play the winner of the Mississippi State Regional in a best-of-three super regional, the final hurdle to getting back to the College World Series.
(Photo: ASU Athletics)