On Friday night, Arizona State Baseball lost in heartbreaking fashion after letting a two-run lead in the eighth get away with the final blow coming 400+ feet off the bat of Chase Davis to drop game one of the Territorial Cup Series to rival Arizona. In many instances this season, an emotional and gut-wrenching defeat would spiral into more directly after for the Sun Devils, such as the early season sets with BYU and Oklahoma State where close game one losses turned into winless series’ for the team.
On Saturday however, the attitude in the visitor’s dugout at Hi Corbett Field was not one of dejection, but one of determination. And boy, were those Sun Devils (20-20, 9-8 Pac-12) hellbent on leveling the score with the Wildcats (27-13, 12-8) as ASU rallied for a 8-5 victory.
While the tension wasn’t as palpable as it was on Friday, the will-to-win was on display early and often for Willie Bloomquist’s boys in the rookie manager’s first series in Tucson. As has been the Sun Devils' forte in their recent string of success, the bats came alive quick with a three-spot in the second inning off of Arizona starter Chandler Murphy after Kai Murphy knocked in a run and Hunter Haas brought both Murphy and Nate Baez in with a two-run single behind him.
ASU would add three more runs by the end of the fourth as a Baez two-bagger scored Jacob Tobias in the third while a long sacrifice fly by Conor Davis scored Joe Lampe from second base (yes, from second base) and Ryan Campos stayed scorching hot with a base hit to extend his hitting streak to nine games to score Sean McLain and give the Devils a 6-0 advantage through four frames.
ASU starter Kyle Luckham, after a quality outing against USC last week, worked through the first four innings unblemished in the run column, stranding baserunners with solid defense behind him to keep the Wildcats off the board. However, that all changed in the fifth inning. The heart of the Arizona order jumped on Luckham’s third go around the order with three runs on five hits, with a Tanner O’Tremba double setting up RBIs on the next three at-bats to chase Luckham from the game and trim ASU’s lead in half.
With the theme of the night being to respond to adversity, the Sun Devils did just that in the seventh with sacrifice hits by Lampe and McLain to bring their hold back up to 8-3. Although relievers in their second inning were the downfall of the Devils last night, Will Levine flipped the script for the ASU bullpen tonight as after a breezy sixth, Levine ran into just one slip-up at the bat of Tanner O’Tremba, who took him deep to center. Aside from the longball and another run charged after Cameron LaLibertie doubled in the eighth and scored after Levine came out, the right-handed reliever did his job in keeping Arizona away from truly threatening the lead.
Bloomquist’s reasoning behind holding back Brock Peery from the opener on Friday was shown on Saturday when the sophomore closer slammed the door on the Wildcats with 2 strikeouts in his five batters faced, with no walks and only one hit.
SUN. DEVILS. WIN.— Sun Devil Baseball (@ASU_Baseball) April 24, 2022
Rubber match on deck tomorrow at High Noon. pic.twitter.com/keI5Cs8hk4
Saying this win for Arizona State was important would be an understatement as once again, the Sun Devils have pulled up even with 20 wins and 20 losses. With their conference record now up to 9-8, a series win over the Wildcats tomorrow would do wonders for the team’s currently faint at-large hopes at the Field of 68 come Selection Monday. With the biggest game of the season set for noon on Sunday, Tyler Meyer will likely get the ball in hopes that the bats can stay hot for ASU to clinch the Territorial Cup Series of 2022 and gain some traction with the selection committee.