Desperate to accumulate quality wins with only one month remaining in the regular season, Arizona came out on a mission in Tuesday's final Territorial Cup baseball meeting of 2015. The Wildcats annihilated their rivals from up north, using a first inning grand slam off the bat of JJ Matijevic to propel them to a 17-6 victory.
It was actually Arizona State that drew first blood in this one, using a pair of singles and a double to open the game in the top of the first. That scored one run, and a productive groundout from David Greer scored Jake Peevyhouse to put the Sun Devils up 2-0.
That would be as good as things got for the maroon and gold on this night.
A complete meltdown in the visiting bullpen began in the bottom half of the opening frame as starter Ryan Hingst only lasted one-third of an inning before leaving. That was all the time it took for the freshman right-hander to allow five runs on four singles and one big grand slam.
After pulling to within two runs thanks to a fielding error by Arizona's first baseman in the second inning, the struggles on the mound continued in the home half of the frame. Reliever Eli Lingos would allow three runs before finally getting out of the self-inflicted jam, the first of which came on a steal of home and the final two scoring on a triple by Matijevic.
From that point on, the Wildcats were on cruise control. Their pitchers were allowed to throw with ease and the defense was able to avoid any big innings by trading easy outs for runs.
The maroon and gold struck for a single run in the third, seventh, and ninth, but that mattered little as Arizona scored in every inning but one. A four-run explosion in the bottom of the fifth made it a 10-run ballgame, allowing head coach Tracy Smith to start tinkering with his lineup as the result was clearly in hand.
Usual pitcher Andrew Shaps got to bat for just the fifth time this season, and he made the most of it by bringing home a run with a sacrifice fly to center field. The RBI was the freshman's first of the year. On the mound, first year southpaw Tucker Baca was the only Arizona State pitcher to not allow a run. He worked one inning but did give up a hit.
Hingst (3-2), of course, took the loss for the Sun Devils. Middle reliever Robby Medel (2-3) got the win for the Wildcats, allowing just one earned run in 6.1 innings of work.
This was Arizona's second win against its rivals this season, surely providing a boost to a postseason resume that critically needed one. Arizona State is not in jeopardy of missing out on the NCAA Tournament, but the bullpen's struggles is definitely something to keep an eye on as the schedule increases in difficulty.
The Sun Devils will look to bounce back this weekend when they visit Berkeley for a three game set against California. The series will begin Friday night with a 7:00 p.m. first pitch.