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ASU Baseball: Sun Devils drop opening night thriller at Arizona

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Two more to go

Zac BonDurant

For the first time since the three-game set with BYU in February, Arizona State finally had a chance to eclipse the .500 mark on Friday night facing off against their in-state rival Arizona Wildcats. In a season that hasn’t produced many positive headlines, the Sun Devils (19-20) will surely appear on Saturday’s edition of The Daily Wildcat, but not in the way they wanted. In a fiery ten-inning classic, Arizona (27-12) rallied late to snap ASU’s five-game win streak and walk off as a winner in the opening game of the 2022 Territorial Cup Series by a score of 7-6.

Emotions were sure to be elevated at Hi Corbett Field on Friday night as the revived Sun Devils came down I-10 with the intention of making Arizona the latest victim of a newly energized lineup that had plated at least six runs in all of their last seven games. However, the script was flipped on Willie Bloomquist on his first trip to Tucson as a manager as Arizona jumped out to a 4-0 lead after three.

In his first Friday start in over a month, junior LHP Adam Tulloch worked out of trouble in the first but to no avail, as an Ethan Long error would set up two runners in scoring position with nobody out in the second frame. Tulloch was able to bear down and retire the next two hitters, but couldn’t escape the inning unscathed as Tanner O’Tremba put a single into the outfield to score the game’s first two runs.

Despite getting two outs to start the third, the Cats again scratched in two runs after three straight singles scored a run and a walk and hit-by-pitch by Tulloch extended Arizona's lead to 4-0.

It was at this point where the two-out runs, unusually large strike zone, and weight of the rivalry started to get to the Devils as in between the third and fourth frames, umpires had to step into to diffuse the growing animosity between the two clubs. For ASU, this trash-talking session woke up the bats.

Like they did against USC last weekend, the Sun Devils did not waver from the early deficit and immediately responded to a stellar start by Arizona ace T.J. Nichols with back-to-back doubles from Ethan Long and Conor Davis to get on the board in the fourth and two runs scoring on wild pitches in the fifth to reduce the deficit to 4-3. This score held until the seventh when the senior leader of the team stepped up to the plate.

After nearly getting run over on a bang-bang play at first in the sixth, Conor Davis took exception to Arizona’s Mac Bingham not allowing him to make a play at the incoming throw, getting in his face which unmuted the Wildcat dugout on Davis. When Davis came to bat in the seventh, he was showered with boos from the Arizona crowd. Those jeers would be silenced in seconds though, with Davis launching a two-out, two-run blast to put the Sun Devils up 5-4 in the top of the seventh.

Despite an RBI single by Hunter Haas in his return to the starting lineup adding an insurance run for ASU in the eighth, it would be countered with the tying two runs by Arizona in the bottom half as Jared Glenn’s second inning in relief would be derailed by Mac Bingham’s RBI triple and him coming in to tie the game on a subsequent single.

Arizona State was able to put the go-ahead run on third in both the ninth and tenth innings but was unable to cash in on either occasion. And unfortunately for the Sun Devils, Arizona slugger Chase Davis would make them pay with a towering blast onto the roof of the Terry Francona Hitting Center in deep right field off of Blake Pivaroff in his second inning of work to seal an electric 7-6 victory for the Wildcats

It was a night of missed opportunities for the Sun Devils in all aspects of the game. A throwing error gave up two early runs in the second, 11 runners left on base (including two on third base in the ninth and tenth) and questionable umpiring were all key factors in the Sun Devils' 20th defeat of the season.

Despite the loss though, the team knows that if just a couple of plays had gone their way, they could be the ones with the series advantage heading into game two tomorrow. At least, that’s how senior leader Conor Davis put it when he told WCSN postgame, “We got them right where we (expletive) want them.”

Game two is set for Saturday at 5 pm with the Sun Devils set to face off against Arizona’s other ace in Garrett Irvin while ASU will likely send out Kyle Luckham as they look to even the series and pull even at 20-20 on the year.