Arizona baseball escapes with dramatic win over rival Sun Devils
In an ugly marathon of a game, No. 25 Arizona battled back from a six-run deficit to escape with a dramatic 10-9 victory Tuesday night and beat rival No. 18 ASU at Hi Corbett field.
“That’s how you get gray hair,” head coach Andy Lopez said. “I’m really proud of our guys, the way they bounced back. Boy, they did a marvelous job.
“It was two [different] games. First half of the game was not very impressive, not very good. The second half of the game was pretty good.”
The in-state rivals combined for eight errors, four hit batters and ten pitchers in a three hour, 42 minute slugfest. But, when it was all said and done, the 5,396 fans in attendance were treated to the ninth Arizona (24-12) win in 10 games.
“It always feels great to beat ASU,” said reliever Augey Bill, who picked up the win for Arizona. “Being down early, they thought they had the game. We just took it out from under them and broke their heart, and that’s always good against ASU.”
After lackluster pitching by starter Nick Cunningham and relief pitcher Cody Moffett, the Wildcats found themselves in an 8-2 hole heading into the bottom of the sixth. At the time, Arizona had just three hits and the Sun Devils (22-11-1) were in complete control.
“We knew we needed to start swinging the bats,” said second baseman Brandon Dixon, who went 2-for-4 and scored the tying run. “It wasn’t a close game anymore so we needed to get hits, not just [play] a small game.
“No one was worried about the [deficit]. We know we can hit, we know we are capable of putting runs up on the board quickly.”
Arizona spread out eight runs on six hits during a three-inning stretch to surge back into the lead when designated hitter Riley Moore crossed the plate in the bottom of the eighth off of a double by pinch hitter Scott Kingery.
“At 8-2, I’m sure some people left. I think my wife left, in fact,” Lopez said. “But they battled back and there’s always something they can draw from the evening, so hopefully they’ll continue to keep going.”
The Arizona rally started with the Wildcats loading the bases in the sixth inning with no outs. Arizona scored three runs to cut the Sun Devil advantage to 8-5, but the production didn’t come without some luck.
“You’ll take anything you can get,” Dixon said. “It was a sloppy game on both sides. Any opportunities we get to score like that and get the momentum more on our side, going into the rest of the game it definitely helps.”
But the rally was just getting started.
With runners on first and third, sophomore Joseph Maggi singled to center but was caught in a run down after running too far off of first.
This time Arizona created its own luck. With Maggi still in a pickle, Kingery sprinted home to turn an inning-ending situation into a run. ASU’s decision to throw home also let Maggi reach second safely, but he was stranded at second after Trent Gilbert popped out, keeping the Wildcats behind a run.
Dixon started the eighth with a single and then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Zach Gibbons. Second wasn’t good enough for Dixon, though, as he told his coach he was stealing third, Lopez said.
Not only did he make it safely, but the catcher’s throw went wild and the junior scored on the play.
“I knew right then that we were all in this together and we were going to pull out the victory,” Kingery said.
What got lost in it all was the performance of Bill and closer Mathew Troupe. Bill (4-0) pitched 2.0 innings of no-hit baseball, but was helped by an amazing defensive play by Dixon in the top of the seventh.
Troupe (S, 9) shut the door on ASU in the ninth, setting the Sun Devils down in order.
“It’s the perfect first experience of a rivalry game,” Kingery said.