May 26, 2012
Arizona State 9, Arizona 7 (Box Score)
TUCSON, Ariz. - A four-run first-inning deficit was too much for the 13th-ranked Arizona baseball team to overcome as a furious ninth-inning rally came up short, and 16th-ranked Arizona State evened the three game series with a 9-7 victory on Saturday evening before a season-high crowd of 5,667 at Hi Corbett Field.
Arizona (37-17, 19-10 Pac-12) trailed by four runs, 9-5, going to the bottom of the ninth inning before scoring a pair of runs and ultimately loading the bases with two down. But with the tying and winning runs on base, Sun Devil closer Jake Barrett struck out Bobby Brown on a full count to end the game.
The loss puts the Wildcats in a three-way tie for first place in the Pac-12 standings. Oregon (42-16, 19-10 Pac-12), which lost a second straight game to Oregon State on Saturday, and UCLA (41-14, 19-10 Pac-12), which defeated USC earlier in the afternoon, share identical conference records with the Wildcats.
Arizona State (36-19. 18-11) is not eligible for the conference championship, but otherwise would be a game back of the trio. The league recognizes co-champions for all teams that share the highest winning percentage, using a tie-breaker only to determine automatic berths for postseason play.
The Sun Devils roughed up Wildcat starter Konner Wade in the first inning. The first four batters of the game collected a base hit and each came in to score to spot the visitors a 4-0 lead.
The Wildcats clawed back with a run in the bottom of the first and another lone run in the third, before the Sun Devils opened the game up again in the fourth.
Wade (L, 7-3) gave up consecutive singles to open the fourth inning before being chased from the game. Reliever Tyler Crawford entered to face Andrew Aplin, who hit a three-run home run to right field to push the lead to 7-2.
Aplin proved to be a menace for Wildcat pitching all night. The center fielder collected four hits, scored three runs and drove in three out of the leadoff spot. Deven Marrero, who hit behind Aplin, registered three hits, a run and an RBI.
Arizona State starter Trevor Williams was far from dominant, but he was highly effective as he improved to a Pac-12-best 12-2 on the year. Williams tossed eight innings, scattered 10 hits and was charged for five runs - four earned - with four strikeouts.
Williams was at his best working out of jams and was a big reason why Arizona struggled to a 3-for-15 (.200) average with runners in scoring position. The Sun Devils were an opportunistic 7-for-17 (.412) in such situations.
The furious ninth-inning rally began with Moore's double to right-center. Gilbert followed with a line-shot single that drilled Barrett in the leg before ricocheting between first and second base.
With runners at the corners, the top of the Wildcat order came to the plate. Barrett hurled a wild pitch that allowed Moore to scored and move Gilbert to second base, before two quick outs seemed to calm things for the Sun Devils.
Arizona's next two hitters - Mejia and Robert Refsnyder - each were down to their last strikes, but drew walks to load the bases. Seth Mejias-Brean then reached on an error by third baseman Michael Benjamin that scored Gilbert and put the tying run at second base.
That was when Brown stepped to the plate. The left-handed hitter fell behind 1-2, before working the count full. Barrett was able to get Brown swinging to end the game.
The rubber match of the three-game series is set for noon on Sunday. NCAA regional host sites are scheduled to be announced on the ESPN BottomLine and at www.ncaa.com around 12:30 p.m. MST.
NOTES: Saturday's attendance was Arizona's largest home crowd since May 25, 1980, when 7,002 fans watched Arizona defeat Gonzaga by a score of 8-5 at Wildcat Field (before it was named Sancet Field) in the championship game of the Tucson Regional. The Wildcats advanced to the College World Series that season and won their second national championship ... A total of 11,128 fans have attended the first two games of the series.