Arizona State has gone through every situation so far this season. But there is one permanent feature glued to the team: the Sun Devils have no quit.
ASU Baseball head coach Tracy Smith has orchestrated a remarkable turnaround in the last couple months. On his own terms, with a bunch of laborious, come from behind, walk-off wins.
The Sun Devils (28-16 ; 11-10) stands today with a positive Pac-12 record, only 2 games back from conference-leading team, Washington. It is borderline absurd to find ASU in this situation today considering a mid-season slump that discouraged many.
A missed lift-off
The hot, promising start of the season (13-3 after non-conference schedule) with quality series win over Cal State Fullerton on the road and UC-Davis at Phoenix Municipal Stadium went through the window.
1-6 record to open Pac-12 schedule, with two consecutive series defeats at Oregon State and versus Utah.
Conference and post-season expectations died, and it was actually fair considering their low RPI and SOS. But the Sun Devils like to confound all forecasts about them.
It's only fitting that the first Territorial Cup matchup of the year powered ASU's comeback.
Since the win over the Wildcats on April 12th, the Sun Devils clinched 4 straight series against California, Stanford, New Mexico and lately, Oregon. A 12-4 record within a month of baseball, and revived expectations. Can you believe that Arizona State is now back in the race for the Pac-12 title and can dream of NCAA Regionals?
The last series success over the Ducks has been huge, and perfectly representative of ASU's play.
One keyword: resilience
It has been the way of defining the Sun Devils in 2016. Their batting, pitching and defense have been far from optimal, inconsistent throughout the season. But they always battle with their young, talented weapons.
Down a few runs early in the game? No problem. They would eventually hold on and come from the back later in the games. The NINE walk-off wins over the course of the year (five of which during extra-innings) are the prime example of ASU's guts.
There is literally no quit in these Sun Devils.
Head coach Tracy Smith has them playing their hearts out every night. It delivered not once, but twice this past weekend against the Ducks. Catcher Brian Serven sac-fly on Friday followed by swiss-knife Jordan Aboites single on Saturday blasted the Sun Devils off for two crucial wins. Although they didn't earn the sweep, loosing on Sunday, but you understand the trick.
It should be surprising but ASU has done it all season long. And this dynamic bodes well for the rest of the way.
Confidence, mental toughness and a little bit of luck can be a magical recipe for success.
Now, the toughest part awaits
The Sun Devils are back in contention for the Pac-12 title and could potentially sneak into the NCAA Regionals with improved RPI and SOS. They have to confirm new expectations, but the schedule will be a make-or-break battle.
ASU is heading to Las Vegas to play UNLV today. Then, the baseball team will have to travel down south to Tucson before visiting the University of San Diego and UCLA next week. The Sun Devils found success at home, it is time to deliver on the road.
All these Pac-12 teams are tightly bunched. ASU, USC, Oregon State, UCLA, Stanford and California are ever one game apart in conference standings, within a stone's throw of first-place Washington. It is not the time to flinch.
Territorial Cup rivals are tied 1-1. Both teams have been red-hot lately, as Arizona swept Oregon State over the last weekend.
If late game prowess has to come into play, bet on the Sun Devils.