Everything was going right for Arizona State. The Sun Devils held a one-run lead with their ace closer, Ryan Burr, on the mound. ASU was just two outs away from sweeping its rival for the first time since 2009.
However, Arizona designated hitter Bobby Dalbec had other plans, as he blasted a two-run home run off Burr that almost made its way onto Van Buren Road. That hit opened the floodgates and sunk the Sun Devils, as ASU fell to the Wildcats 7-2 Monday night at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
"It's a tough loss, it's a bad loss, but at the end of the day, it's just a loss," head coach Tracy Smith said. "That's going to happen in this game. I would bet anything I have that won't happen again like that. This is a game that will be good to you and it will kick you in a heartbeat and tonight it got him (Burr)."
Burr faced 10 batters, allowing five hits and six earned runs, raising his ERA over two points.
"I would just call that a perfect storm of what could have gone wrong, went wrong," said Burr. "I didn't make the pitches I needed to. Obviously they are a good hitting team and they hammered my mistakes."
Junior Brett Lilek started for the Sun Devils. The left hander was opposed by Bobby Dalbec, Arizona's usual closer who was moved into the starting weekend rotation before the series began by coach Andy Lopez.
Dalbec, however, first made his mark Monday night at the plate, smashing a solo home run to right centerfield in the second inning to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead.
That was about the only mistake Lilek made all night, as the lefty threw seven innings, allowing just one run and striking out five in a no-decision.
"It was fantastic," Smith said of Lilek's performance. "That's the guy that we need down the stretch. If you are going to grab a positive tonight, which you should, that would certainly be one of them."
Lilek did not allow a hit after the second inning and he retired nine of the final 10 batters he faced.
"When he has confidence and he has his stuff rolling, he is as good as anybody in the country, there is no secret about that," said Smith. "This game is about consistency, so I think the big step for him is let's back it up and do it again."
The ASU bats finally broke through and tied the game in the sixth inning. After Brian Serven led off the inning with a double, David Greer moved him to third with a ground out. The next batter, Joey Bielek, sent Serven home with on a sac fly.
In the next inning, the Sun Devils took the lead when Serven walked with the bases loaded, bringing home Andrew Snow. The Sun Devils took a 2-1 lead with two innings left to play.
Lilek was replaced in the eighth by Burr, who gave up a two-out single to Arizona second baseman Scott Kingery, who was thrown out trying to steal second by Serven during the next at-bat. Serven has now thrown out 25 runners this season.
"They (ASU catchers) do a really nice job working on their game, their craft," said Smith. "He (Serven) is good. We will be talking with the Team USA folks about guys they are considering from us and I assume he's in the mix so that tells me one of the best catchers in the country."
Burr surrendered a leadoff single to Kevin Newman and after striking out Riley Moore in the ninth, gave up the two-run shot to Dalbec, his second home run of the game. The following six Wildcat hitters reached base, three on singles and three on walks.
Jordan Aboites came in the game in relief of Burr, however he only faced two batters, and could not record an out. When the dust settled, the Wildcats sent 12 batters to the plate, spanked five hits and scored six runs in the ninth inning alone.
Perhaps more alarming is the fact that ASU was just 1-13 Monday night with runners on base, 0-6 with runners in scoring position and 0-3 with the bases loaded.
"That's baseball, I don't think anybody is going up there trying to fail, but we didn't do anything offensively all night," said Smith.
The Sun Devils will put this one behind them like they have all of their losses this season. ASU still sits in sole possession of second place in the Pac-12, just a game behind UCLA. They will board a plane for Seattle on Thursday and begin their weekend series with the Washington Huskies on Friday.
Look to see a team with a bit of an edge.
"I feel bad for the Huskies," Burr said. "Because they have a bunch of pissed off kids coming towards them."