PHOENIX — As the final out was awarded, Arizona fans shot up to their feet waving towels above their heads in celebratory fashion, as Sun Devil fans crawled out of their seats and out of Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
It was a loss that put Arizona State (23-28, 8-18 Pac-12) officially out of contention for a .500 or better season for the first time since 1985 when the Sun Devils finished 31-38.
ASU lost 3-1 to No. 18 Arizona (35-17, 14-12 Pac-12) for a second consecutive time on Friday night.
“I understand the losing season piece of it, but to me its a bigger picture thing,” said ASU manager Tracy Smith. “I’m not worried about the future of where we’re going... for the four remaining games, I want to make sure that the guys that are wearing this uniform are playing and playing hard.”
Smith later noted he indeed was pleased with his team’s performance, in terms of effort.
“I’m going to walk out of this place tonight with my head high held high because that locker room has not quit,” Smith said.
One of Smith’s main go-getters was Left hander Eli Lingos (6-5) who had one of his more impressive starts of the season against a UA team that averages nearly eight runs per contest.
Lingos threw five scoreless innings, but gave up a run in the fourth inning and had two more runs tagged to his total when UA scored a pair of runs in the seventh inning off Ryan Hingst that were attributed to Lingos.
In what ended a quality start for Lingos, he reflected on facing one of the nation’s best hitters, JJ Matijevic, who boasts a .401 batting average. Ending Matijevic’s night at 1-for-3, Lingos at least kept him below his average.
“You just don’t want to give him anything too good to hit,” Lingos said. “For him I was slipping in a lot of slow curve balls and just frustrating him a little bit and keeping him off balance.”
In all three of Arizona’s runs, ASU recorded outs. In the fourth inning, a double play scored in Ryan Haug. Then, in the seventh inning, Louis Boyd and Jared Oliva Scored each scored on different occasions of fielder’s choices.
Arizona State’s lone run came in the sixth inning when Zach Cerbo belted an RBI sac fly to deep right center field that scored a run-hungry Hunter Bishop. At the time, Bishop was the game tying run as the Sun Devils tied the game at 1-1. But due to Arizona’s fielder’s choice run scoring duo, the Sun Devils eventually trailed and fell 3-1.
Of Arizona State’s six hits, Hunter Bishop had two of them and scored the lone run.
The Sun Devils did leave seven runners on base with plenty of opportunity, but were unable to capitalize. Amidst just one run, Smith was fairly happy with his team’s approach at the plate.
“I thought some guys threw together some good at-bats,” Smith said. “I have no issues with the way the guys are playing.”
The main reason for the Sun Devils’ plate struggles: Arizona’s Cameron Ming.
The left hander was simple brilliant as he pitched a complete game, giving up just one earned run on six hits. It was his longest start since earlier in the month when throwing a complete game against Washington on May 6.
The Sun Devils will face the Wildcats once more on Saturday at 6 p.m. to conclude the series.