TEMPE, Ariz. – On a beautiful Tuesday night in the desert, ACU and Arizona State closed the doors on one of the iconic stadiums in college baseball history with another in a long line of classics at a park that has hosted more than its share in its 40-year history.
And unfortunately for the Wildcats, as has been the case for many of those that came before Tuesday night, the Sun Devils found a way to scratch out a win, this time scoring twice in the bottom of the eighth inning and then hanging on in the ninth inning to take a 4-2 win over a game Wildcat squad.
The win was the 1,122nd and final win at Packard Stadium, which closes after hosting the Sun Devils for 40 years. The stadium has hosted 80 NCAA post-season games, including 20 regional series and four super regional series. It's been the home of two College World Series champions (1977 and 1981) and 16 conference championship teams.
But the moment wasn't too big for the Wildcats, who played perhaps their best game of the season, despite the defeat. ACU fell behind 1-0 early, tied the game 1-1, took a 2-1 lead, but then saw the Sun Devils score the final three runs of the game. But senior left-hander Brady Rodriguez was spectacular in the penultimate start of his career, throwing six-plus innings and allowing just five hits and two runs while striking out five Sun Devils.
"I told our guys that they made ACU proud (Tuesday night)," ACU head coach Britt Bonneau said. "They really represented Abilene Christian University in a great way on the last night here at Packard Stadium. I'm really proud of my team."
After the Sun Devils took an early 1-0 lead, the Wildcats tied the game at 1-1 on a double by Aaron Draper and an RBI single down the left field line by Tyler Eager. Then the Wildcats took their first lead in a game since a 7-0 win over Oral Roberts on May 9 when Brandon Grudzielanek scampered home on a wild pitch to give ACU a 2-1 lead after the top of the sixth.
But that's when Arizona State rightfielder Trever Allen took over the game.
He led off the bottom of the seventh with a triple to left-centerfield that Eager couldn't quite haul in. He then scored on a single through the right side by Dalton Dinatale to tie the game at 2-2. That's when Rodriguez exited in favor of Nick Palacios, who threw five pitches and got three outs to keep the game tied going to the eighth inning.
In the bottom of the eighth, Drew Stankiewicz led off with a single off ACU closer Kevin Sheets and went to third on a double to right field by Jake Peevyhouse. Sheets then got RJ Ybarra to strike out looking before intentionally walking Nate Causey to load the bases and set up a force out at any base.
Allen then singled to left field to drive in Causey and Peevyhouse to give the Sun Devils a 4-2 lead. ASU had a chance to tack on at least one more run, but Colton Hall threw out Causey at the plate on a single by Dinatale, and then Sheets got David Greer swinging to end the eighth.
In the ninth, ASU closer Ryan Burr came on and walked Emil Litterer to lead off the inning before getting Hall to strike out. He then walked Kyle Giusti to put the tying runs on base before getting Russell Crippen and Jordan Forrester to strike out to end the game and bring the curtain down on 40 years of baseball at Packard.
Sheets was tagged with the loss to fall to 4-4, while Jordan Aboites (4-2) picked up the win in relief. Burr recorded his 11th save for the Sun Devils.
Draper and Eager each had two hits for the Wildcats, who had seven hits against one of the top pitching staffs in the Pac-12.
The Wildcats (17-34) will now move south to Tucson where they will take on Arizona this weekend (Friday-Sunday) in a three-game series to end the season.