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ASU vs. UofA Baseball Preview: Territorial Cup At Stake

Whichever team takes two of the three games this weekend will claim the prized trophy.

Photo: ASU Athletics

The 2012-13 Territorial Cup will be settled once and for all this weekend at Packard Stadium.

The Arizona Wildcats (29-20, 10-14) travel to Tempe to take on No. 13 Arizona State (33-15-1, 14-10). The team that wins two of three games will claim the highly coveted Territorial Cup for its university.

ASU also needs two wins to clinch a top-16 spot and become an NCAA regional host. Beating Texas Tech in comeback fashion was a must and the bullpen held strong during the 8-5 victory on Wednesday. It should be noted that right-handed reliever Ryan Burr tied the school's freshman single-season saves record with 11. He will have a chance to break the record this weekend against the Wildcats.

If the Sun Devils' last Pac-12 battle is any indication, this weekend could be one for the history books. ASU relied on the long ball and two-out hitting to steal the road trip from California.

James McDonald hit the game-winning solo home run in the ninth on Saturday night and designated hitter Nate Causey blasted a two-out grand slam in the ninth to break a 6-6 tie on Mother's Day, finishing the afternoon with a career-high six RBIs. He followed it up with a 3-for-4 outing and four RBI's against the Red Raiders.

Head football coach Todd Graham will throw out the ceremonial first pitch on Friday and he will be available to sign autographs on the third base concourse 45 minutes before first pitch. On Sunday, Arizona State will honor its three seniors, Alex Blackford, Matt Dunbar and Max Rossiter for their contributions to the Sun Devil program.

Now, to the games themselves. Arizona and Arizona State each have some things to prove with the postseason on the horizon. Arizona has dropped six of its last seven Pac-12 games, not including a midweek nonconference game against the Sun Devils. The Wildcats should be well on their wait to making the tournament because they are in the top half of the Pac-12 standings, but they could be either a No. 2 or No. 3 seed in the regional round.

Sure, there is no more Fab Five, but the Wildcats are still a competitive team and the Sun Devils learned their lesson when Arizona came back to win 10-9 in mid April. Arizona is just like Arizona State in the fact that they have five everyday starters with batting averages better than .310. Furthermore, there's no denying that center fielder Johnny Field and third baseman Brandon Dixon supply most of the offense.

The leadoff and best all-around hitters combine for 11 of the team's 13 home runs, 102 runs (32 percent), 81 RBI's (28 percent), and 44 stolen bases (48 percent) and are the top two on the team in batting average.

It will be a hard fought battle as always because of the heart and effort that is put forth in rivalry games. Kasey Coffman, Michael Benjamin, and James McDonald have been tearing it up at the top for the Sun Devils while Causey has been locking things down at the bottom of the order.

Like almost every series, this weekend will come down to pitching. Trevor Williams, Ryan Kellogg and Zak Miller will take the mound for ASU against Konner Wade, James Farris and Tyler Crawford. Wade and Williams are both having difficult seasons and are in need of a big win to give them some confidence as Pac-12 play winds down.

If this series comes down to the Sunday afternoon contest, it should be a high scoring game. If that's the case, the Sun Devils should have an edge and claim the 2012-13 Territorial Cup.