McLain, Sun Devil Baseball Walk Off Fairfield to Advance in Austin Regional
AUSTIN – For much of the season, winning has not always been a glamorous affair for the Sun Devil Baseball team. Yet, time and time again, the youngest team in the NCAA Championship field has simply found a way to scratch and claw and will its way to victory in games by whatever means necessary.
So, for the Sun Devils on Friday night in the opening contest of the Austin Regional, it was indicative of the ASU season to find a way to win late and win ugly. They did it by overcoming a disastrous seventh inning on the mound to rally to a walk-off victory over Fairfield on Sean McLain's RBI single in the bottom of the ninth for a 7-6 victory over the Stags to advance in the winner's bracket and take on No. 2 overall seed and regional host Texas tomorrow evening.
ASU squandered a 4-2 lead in the top of the seventh as Fairfield rallied for three runs with two outs without recording a hit as the control on the mound came apart with a bases loaded wild pitch and two RBI walks to put the Stags (37-4) up 5-4. The Stags added some insurance in the top of the eighth with an RBI single, forcing the Sun Devils into a position they have become accustomed to this year - rallying from a late deficit.
McLain and Joe Lampe had two-hit efforts and eight different Sun Devils had a hit in the contest. Tyler Thornton bounced back from a leadoff home run in the game and a brief weather delay addressing the mound to go 5.2 innings, allowing just two runs.
The Sun Devils stranded 12 Stag baserunners in the game, including three as Brady Corrigan came in to get out of the sixth and strand the bases loaded.
THE BIG MOMENT
McLain was the hero of the evening, responsible for the run to bring ASU back within one in the bottom of the eighth with his RBI double to score pinch runner Seth Nager from first to make it 6-5.
McLain would see his number called again in the bottom of the ninth after ASU loaded the bases with one out on back-to-back one-out singles in lefty-lefty matches from Joe Lampe and pinch hitter Kai Murphy against Fairfield ace Michael Sansone – who entered the game with an 8-1 record and a 2.35 ERA. Drew Swift loaded the bases with a walk and Blake Pivaroff wore one on the hand as a pinch hitter to bring in the tying run.
That set the table for McLain and the redshirt freshman answering, going down and getting a ball low and away in the zone with a nice piece of hitting to send a single to opposite right field and score Murphy for the game-winning run.
Jared Glenn earned the win and deserves much of the credit for coming in and spelling Will Levine in the top of the seventh after Levine lost control of the zone and allowed Fairfield to score three two-out runs with the bases loaded on a wild pitch and two RBI walks. Glenn got out of the jam to avoid further disaster and keep it a one run game.
Glenn would allowed a two-out run himself in the top of the eighth but after ASU made it a one-run game in the bottom half of the frame, Glenn got out of a pivotal jam in the ninth as he stranded a pair of one-out singles to keep it a one-run game and give ASU a chance to walk it off.
- The Sun Devils turned their nation-leading 58th double play in the contest.
- Brady Corrigan has inherited 82 baserunners in his career and only 16 have scored (19.5 percent).
- ASU has double digit hits in 20 of the last 29 games.
- ASU stranded 12 Fairfield baserunners in the game, a key aspect of the team's season as ASU has now stranded 451 baserunners on the year (8.5 per game).
- ASU has now won eight games this season in which it was trailing or tied after seven innings. That is tied for second most for the program since 1998 behind only the 2015 team, which won 11 such games.
INNING BY INNING
Fairfield wasted no time getting on the board, taking the second pitch of the game out of the park. ASU went down in order.
Thornton bounced back with an eight-pitch inning, including two first pitch flyouts to center. ASU put a couple good swings on some balls with Ethan Long giving a ride to the warning track with the wind blowing in and Moss lining out to left but nothing to show for it.
ASU turned its nation-leading 58th double play on the season and Thornton stranded runners on the corners to keep it a one-run game. ASU loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the order behind a Haas HBP, Lampe walk and Higgins bunt single. Swift tied the game with a sac fly to left.
The Stags got a leadoff walk as the rain started to come down in Austin. A slight weather delay followed as the grounds crew touched up the mound. Two groundouts to first put the runner on third with two outs and Thornton got a big strikeout to leave him there and keep the game tied.
The Sun Devil bats came alive in the bottom half with a leadoff walk and stolen base from Sean McLain. Long brought him home with an RBI single two batters later, Jack Moss went yard with his sixth home of the year – a two-run shot to make it 4-1.
ASU got a pivotal 1-2-3 frame from Thornton and but unfortunately lined into a tough luck double play in the bottom half as Fairfield faced the minimum.
A pair of doubles from the Stags cut the deficit to 4-2. Fairfield would load the bases with two outs and ASU turned to Brady Corrigan with an inherited 1-0 count and he got a huge inning-ending flyout to keep it a two-run game. ASU went down in order in the bottom half.
The Sun Devil command came apart in the seventh as ASU struggled to throw a strike with two outs, leading to three runs on two bases loaded walks and a wild pitch to take a 5-4 lead. The Devils went down in order.