By: Brian Kreps – Contributing Writer
May 2, 2016
TEMPE, Ariz. – Arizona State sophomore Andrew Shaps thought he had delivered the potential game-winning RBI in the bottom of the seventh when he singled to right with pinch runner Daniel Williams on second base in a scoreless tie. But, Williams was held at third and the Sun Devils failed to score in the inning.
So, when he came up again in the bottom of the ninth still in a scoreless tie with another chance to play hero, he delivered. Shaps lined a 1-0 pitch into right field, scoring junior Colby Woodmansee from second to give Arizona State the 1-0 walk-off win, and a series sweep of New Mexico at Phoenix Municipal Stadium in front of 1,968 fans.
“I thought I was gonna do that the previous at bat, with my first single, but that didn’t happen. So I was really excited to get that second shot at it, and I was confident at the plate,” Shaps said. “I dialed in a little extra. I wanted to pick us up.”
Shaps’ heroics were made possible thanks to Woodmansee, junior Brian Serven and a bit of wildness from New Mexico pitcher Vic Sanchez. Woodmansee was hit by a pitch to start the inning. After Williams struck out, Serven received the second plunking of the inning, advancing Woodmansee to second. Al Estrella relieved Sanchez, and promptly gave up the game-winning single to Shaps.
“So very proud of (Shaps),” Arizona State head coach Tracy Smith said, “Good for him to be the guy to get the big hit for us today, because he’s grinding it out. That’s what you want.”
Smith was especially gratified that Shaps got the game-winner.
“He’s playing banged up. He’s not 100 percent, but he’s not wanting to come out. He’s wanting to play. That’s what you like to see,” Smith said. “I think if you keep laying it out there with guys like that, with that mentality, with a little bit of talent, they’re gonna have some success.”
Shaps hasn’t focused on that, but on just trying to so the best he can when his opportunities arise.
“Recently I have been seeing the ball well, just trying to simplify my swing, not trying to get to big and as of recently it’s been working,” Shaps said.
Smith said that Shaps’ approach has been paying off.
“It goes back to that mentality, slowing himself down,” Smith said. “Guys have a tendency to go meet the ball. When he gets in trouble, he gets out over that front (foot). He has done a really nice job of sitting back, keeping the head still and trust in his hands and put some good swings on the ball.”
For the Sun Devils, (25-15, 9-9 in the Pac-12) starting pitcher freshman Zach Dixon only pitched 2.2 innings, and failed to get out of the third inning, before giving way to junior Eder Erives.
“The whole plan was…we knew we were gonna use those two guys. I don’t think it could have shaped up any more perfectly than it did with Eder being fresh coming into today,” Smith said. “We didn’t want to start Eder and back it up with Dixon. We wanted to get whatever we get out of Zach and turn it over to Eder to have him in the later innings, the mature guy in the later stages of the game. It worked out perfectly.”
Erives (5-1) pitched the final 6.1 innings to get the win, only allowing one hit and striking out seven.
“When Eder is on, the only way the other team is gonna score is when we make errors,” Shaps said. “We feel pretty nice confident, and he obviously was on today so the confidence level was up a lot more.”
New Mexico (30-16, 16-5 in Mountain West) was led by senior Colton Thompson, who pitched seven innings, allowing just three hits and striking out seven.
“We just felt like if we hang around long enough, we’re gonna find a way to win this game. I think the guys believe they can win, they can beat anybody. So that’s a good thing,” Smith said. “I like thing kind of grinder attitude which is starting to take place a little bit, which is what you need here.”
Next up for the Sun Devils are the Oregon Ducks, who come to Phoenix Municipal Stadium for a weekend series beginning on Friday, May 6 at 6:30 p.m. MST.