May 27, 2012
Arizona 8, Arizona State 7 (Box Score)
TUCSON, Ariz. - The 13th-ranked Arizona baseball team went a perfect 3-for-3 on Sunday afternoon before a crowd of 2,927 at Hi Corbett Field.
First, the Wildcats found out they were selected as one of 16 hosts for next weekend's NCAA Regional Championships. The school has not hosted a baseball regional since 1992.
Then Arizona saw a six-run lead over its in-state rival and 16th-ranked Arizona State evaporate into a 7-7 tie ballgame in the ninth inning before Johnny Field roped a line drive walk-off single to left field that gave the Wildcats a thrilling 8-7 victory over the Sun Devils.
The win secured not only a conference series victory against ASU for the first time since 2008, but also the season series against the rivals from the north.
And with it all, the Wildcats captured a share of the Pac-12 Championship, the school's first league title since 1992. Not a bad way to end the regular season.
Arizona (38-17, 20-10 Pac-12) looked hungry for a piece of the conference championship early on, scoring four first-inning runs. The Wildcats chased Sun Devil starter Alex Blackford from the game after just one-third of an inning.
Arizona State (36-20, 18-12 Pac-12) eventually fell behind 7-1 through four innings, before erupting for three runs in the fifth, one in the sixth and two more in the ninth. Meanwhile, the Sun Devil pitching staff shut out the Wildcats from the fourth through the eighth innings.
The ninth-inning rally began for the Wildcats when Riley Moore drew a one-out walk against reliever Robert Ravago, who stranded two runners and thwarted an eighth-inning threat. One out later, Joey Rickard singled and Moore scooted around to third base.
With runners at the corners, and the Pac-12 regular season batting champ, Field, stepping to the plate, the Sun Devils stuck with Ravago. Rickard took second base uncontested on the second pitch of the at-bat, which left first base open.
Still, the Sun Devils went after Field. Ravago's 1-1 pitched was ripped to left field, which drove in Moore with the winning run and the celebration began.
The walk-off victory capped a third-consecutive nail-biter in the series. The Wildcats won Friday's game, 1-0, on Seth Mejias-Brean's double to left field that scored Robert Refsnyder. The Sun Devils escaped Saturday night with a 9-7 win as Bobby Brown struck out with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth.
On Sunday, it was a mixed bag. A big lead early, followed by a six-run comeback, followed by another big hit in the ninth inning.
Stephen Manthei, who gave up the game-tying double to Abe Ruiz in the top of the eighth inning but also induced an inning-ending double-play to strand the go-ahead run, worked around a two-out single and ended the inning with a strikeout of Andrew Aplin to set up the final heroics. Manthei picked up the win out of the bullpen to improve to 6-4.
Neither starting pitcher factored into the decision. Blackford, who was charged for the four first-inning runs, was let off the hook when Arizona State tied the game.
Arizona's James Farris did not qualify even before the Wildcats blew the six-run lead. Farris pitched 4.2 innings and gave up four runs on seven hits.
Arizona State's Adam McCreery pitched 3.2 scoreless innings of relief to buy time for the Sun Devils to storm back. McCreery turned the game over to Ravago with two down in the seventh. Ravago suffered his first loss as he fell to 4-1.
All nine Arizona starters collected a hit in the game, including Field who finished the 55-game regular season with a .379 batting average.
The Wildcats, who are Pac-12 Co-Champions with UCLA, will learn on Monday which three teams they are hosting for next weekend's Tucson Regional. The NCAA 64-team field will be unveiled live on ESPNU beginning at 9 a.m. MST.