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ASU Baseball: Sun Devils drop series opener to No. 18 Wildcats, 6-5

A ninth inning rally fell short as ASU opened its final home stand with a loss.

Photo taken by Nick Ramirez

PHOENIX — Opening the season’s final home stand by hosting the No. 18 Arizona Wildcats, the expectation for Arizona State was merely to compete. And compete they did, battling the Wildcats in a wild back-and-forth affair, but a poor defensive sequence ended up being the difference in the game as ASU lost, 6-5.

The loss drops ASU’s season record to 23-27, and the Sun Devils will have to win the remaining five games on their schedule to pull out a an above .500 record.

Arizona State wasn’t without its chances late, as the Sun Devils entered the ninth inning needing two runs to extend the action. Zach Cerbo reached base safely on a fielder’s choice groundout, and advanced to third base on Carter Aldrete’s single to center. That’s when fortune intervened, as a passed ball to the backstop gave Cerbo the opportunity he needed to come home - halving the Wildcat lead in the process.

With two outs and a man on second, Andrew Snow came to the plate needing to reach safely to keep the night alive. On the second pitch he saw, he popped out to the second baseman to bookend the evening.

Snow was also part of a notable sequence earlier in the game, as Arizona came to the plate in the top of the seventh in a 3-3 deadlock. Louis Boyd reached safely on Snow’s error at short, and after Eder Erives walked a batter and allowed a single the bases were juiced.

Connor Higgins relieved Erives on the mound and proceeded to strike out JJ Matijevic, but a mishandled sacrifice bunt in the ensuing at-bat scored two Arizona runs. Another error from Snow in the following at-bat allowed another run to reach home, surging the Wildcats ahead 6-3.

While futile in the end, the Sun Devils managed to put up an honorable effort against one of the Pac-12’s top pitchers in J.C. Cloney. The Wildcat right-hander was forced out of the game after 5 13 innings pitched, and the Sun Devils erased Arizona leads on two separate occasions off of Cloney. Snow’s early sacrifice fly evened a 1-1 tie, and Gage Canning’s solo bomb set up a Cerbo run off a Cloney wild pitch in the fifth that created the 3-3 scenario the teams took to the latter innings.

ASU takes another crack at the Wildcats tomorrow, with first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m. MST.