If you want to win in Arizona, you better go up to bleeping Tempe.
Or in this case, slightly northwest of Tempe.
On Saturday night at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, the Arizona Wildcats completed a three-game sweep of the in-state rival Arizona State Sun Devils with a 9-5 decision on ASU’s senior night.
The win moves Arizona to 15-12 in conference play (4th place) and 36-17 overall. ASU drops to 8-19 in Pac-12 games, 23-29 overall.
Unlike the first two games of this series, and really the last month, the Wildcats got the scoring started right away, thanks in part to a minor lineup change.
With Jared Oliva moved to the top of the order, JJ Matijevic shifting up to the two-hole, and Ryan Haug batting third, the Wildcats scored a pair of runs right away.
Matijevic reached on a single that he actually hit right into the ASU shift, but the second baseman was playing so deep that the Arizona junior was able to leg out a single.
That brought up the red-hot Haug, and he lined one to left center. ASU CF Gage Canning misjudged it by a lot, allowing the ball to bounce behind him, which went down as an RBI triple.
And the Cats are on the board! Ryan Haug plates JJ Matijevic with an RBI triple in the 1st! #BearDown https://t.co/CurEJw73aQ— Arizona Baseball (@ArizonaBaseball) May 21, 2017
This led to new cleanup hitter Alfonso Rivas smoking a pitch down the left field line, legging out a double and giving the Wildcats a 2-0 lead.
Make it 2-0! Alfonso Rivas doubles to left to score Haug. #BearDown https://t.co/iifja2yCxz— Arizona Baseball (@ArizonaBaseball) May 21, 2017
The rally kept going with a little blooper to right from Kyle Lewis, scoring Rivas from second with two down in the opening frame.
This was the first time since the series-opening game against Stanford on April 27th that Arizona had scored in the first inning. It’s also the first instance since April 15th vs. Oregon that the Wildcats put a crooked number on the board to start the game.
In the third, an ASU error allowed Haug to reach base to start the inning. A stolen base and wild pitch later, he was standing on third with Rivas on first.
Cory Voss hit into a double play, but that was enough to score Haug and extend the lead to four at the time.
Arizona continued to pile it on in the fourth. Cal Stevenson started the Wildcats’ turn at the plate with his second walk of the night. Two batters later, Matijevic hit his 27th double of the year into right, scoring Stevenson and making it a 5-1 ballgame.
Weird. Another double for #JJBae scores another run. It's 5-1 Cats. #NotWeird. https://t.co/E8HvEyWJ9W— Arizona Baseball (@ArizonaBaseball) May 21, 2017
Matijevic would steal third, and actually took off for home on a failed suicide squeeze attempt from Haug. However, Haug eventually wound up at first after getting hit by a pitch, leading ASU to bring in reliever Alec Marsh.
Marsh had allowed 16 earned runs in 16 2⁄3 innings in 2017, but drew a double play ball to get out of the jam.
Despite his poor numbers, Marsh actually did a good job of keeping the Arizona bats in check, not allowing runs while he was on the mound, which ended up being 3 1⁄3 innings.
However, once he left the mound, he would get charged with a run.
After walking the bases loaded on eight consecutive balls, Marsh was removed from the game.
Connor Higgins, who gave up the game-deciding runs in Thursday’s contest, uncorked a wild pitch on a 3-2 count to Stevenson, allowing one run to score.
While the play was developing, Sawyer Gieseke, who came on to pinch run for Nick Quintana, slipped while rounding third, and ASU caught him in a quick rundown. Gieseke was thrown out at home to end the inning, which was the second time in as many weeks he’s made a baserunning mistake after being a pinch runner.
In the 9th, Gieseke would drive home Lewis after the second baseman was hit by a pitch and advanced to third on a couple of wild pitches.
This poke from Sawyer Gieseke scores Kyle Lewis and we lead 7-1 in the 9th! #BearDown https://t.co/zzCMZ2jpT6— Arizona Baseball (@ArizonaBaseball) May 21, 2017
A series of events after his including a Stevenson ground rule double and an intentional walk to Matijevic, Cesar Salazar came up with the bases full of Wildcats and two outs.
Salazar, making his third plate appearance of the night, lined a single through the right side for his second hit, pushing the lead to 9-1.
Those ended up being huge insurance runs.
Cody Deason continued to solidify himself as the third starter in this rotation by just getting the job done on Saturday.
The sophomore righty tossed 6+ innings of one-run baseball, scattering eight hits and a walk along the way. He only had two clean innings, but still kept the Sun Devils at bay with the exception of one blemish in the third inning.
After Deason was removed from the game, Rio Gomez and Michael Flynn combined to get out of the seventh despite the first two hitters reaching base against the Arizona starter.
Flynn did well until the ninth, when his command got away from him a little bit.
ASU freshman Nick Cheema picked up his first career hit and RBI with a pinch-hit double in the Sun Devils’ final at bat to make it a 9-2 game.
Randy Labaut came on to face Gage Canning to set up the lefty-lefty matchup, but it didn’t phase Canning. He lined a two-run triple to right center to cut the lead to five.
Canning scored from third with Tylor Megill on the mound for Arizona, but that would be the final Sun Devil run of the game.
Notable Goose Eggs
As noted at the beginning, Jared Oliva found himself hitting lead off on Saturday night. This didn’t work out well for him, as he went 0-for-6 with a trio of punchouts.
With a left-handed pitcher starting for ASU, Cory Voss was the Wildcats’ DH. He wound up going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts of his own. He did lay down a sac bunt in the seventh though, leading to Arizona’s sixth run of the game.
On the flip side, Cal Stevenson, who dropped to the nine-hole, went 2-for-2 with three walks. Alfonso Rivas added a 3-for-5 + BB game of his own.
LET THIS HAUNT YOUR DREAMS
BREAKING: My new favorite player is @AZATHLETICS pitcher @AustinSchnabel #12news pic.twitter.com/osOA3ppHwd— Drew Soicher (@DrewSoicher) May 21, 2017
Arizona concludes the regular season at Hi Corbett with a three-game series against the California Golden Bears. Cal is coming off of a three-game series against TCU in which they were able to go 1-2 against one of the nation’s top teams.
That win against the Horned Frogs will move Cal closer to the top 70 in the RPI, which will only help Arizona’s case for hosting a Regional if they are able to win at least two against the Bears next weekend.
The series starts on Friday at 7 PM PT.
Pac-12 Baseball Standings
|Team||Conference record||Overall record|
|Team||Conference record||Overall record|
|Oregon State Beavers||27-3||46-4|
|California Golden Bears||13-14||23-28|
|Washington State Cougars||10-18||24-27|
|Arizona State Sun Devils||8-19||23-29|