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Clutch hitting, bullpen key to Arizona’s blowout win over ASU

Wildcats clinch the series 3-1

arizona-wildcats-asu-sun-devils-college-baseball-pac12-territorial-cup-recap-hi-corbett-abshier-2021 Courtesy Arizona Athletics

It doesn’t count in the Pac-12 standings, but it does in the bragging rights department.

The Arizona Wildcats picked up their third win over rival ASU in the past six days, using a bevy of two-out rallies to win 14-2 on Tuesday night at Hi Corbett Stadium.

A “pandemic sellout” crowd of 1,348 saw the UA (19-8) rally from down 2-0 early by recording its first eight hits with two outs to clinch the season series 3-1 against the Sun Devils. Arizona took two of three in Phoenix last weekend in the games that count toward league standings, while Tuesday’s game was a nonconference tilt.

ASU (16-8) scored on a sacrifice fly in the top of the first inning and made it 2-0 on a solo home run by Jack Moss. Arizona loaded the bases with two out in the first but couldn’t score, then went down in order in the second before what can best be described as an act of nature inspired the Wildcats’ offense to come alive.

With Donta’ Williams at the plate to start the third, a pair of ducks—presumably from the ponds at neighboring Reid Park—landed in foul territory up the first base line and, well, let’s just say nature is beautiful. Williams was then hit by a pitch and later scored on a bases-loaded fielder’s choice by Jacob Blas to get the Wildcats within 2-1.

Two batters later Daniel Susac tied the game with a 2-out single to left for Arizona’s first hit of the game.

Arizona added three runs in the fourth, the first coming in on a Branden Boissiere sacrifice fly before Blas and Ryan Holgate recorded two-out RBI hits, and in the fifth the Wildcats used four consecutive 2-out singles to bring in two more runs.

The Wildcats’ first hit with fewer than two outs came to open the sixth when Susac led things off with a double, starting a 4-run rally that included Nik McClaughry clearing the bases with a 3-run double over a drawn-in ASU center fielder. The UA added three more in the seventh.

McClaughry, the No. 9 hitter, was 2 for 4 with four RBI and three runs scored. Since moving into the starting lineup seven games ago the Sacramento City College transfer is 10 for 22.

“The main focus for me has been just seeing the ball,” McClaughry said. “When I’m able to see the ball and react to the pitches, that’s when I’m able to do good.”

All told, Arizona recorded 13 hits from nine different players, including two off the bench, and two non-starters scored runs as the Wildcats emptied the bench with 18 players getting an at-bat or playing in the field.

ASU went through eight pitchers, who combined to throw 205 pitches. Arizona used five, with its four relievers blanking the Sun Devils over the final seven innings. In the four games with ASU this season, the UA bullpen has allowed one earned run in 19 innings.

After Dawson Netz threw the first two innings, allowing both of ASU’s runs, Randy Abshier (1-0) picked up the win with 3.2 innings of one-hit relief, arguably the best outing in his three seasons at Arizona. The left-hander needed only 37 pitches, benefitting from a 3-pitch fourth inning in which he hit the first batter, induced a 6-4-3 double play and then ended the frame with a first-pitch groundout.

“I can’t tell you how big that was for our team, our pitching staff,” UA coach Jay Johnson said. “We could use another left-hander out of the bullpen to be effective.”

Quinn Flanagan, Riley Cooper and Austin Smith allowed only two hits over the final three frames.

Arizona returns to Pac-12 play on Friday when it hosts Cal for a 3-game set at Hi Corbett.

Chandler Murphy named Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week

Prior to the game, the Pac-12 honored freshman righty Chandler Murphy for his dominant relief performance last Thursday at ASU, naming him the conference’s pitcher of the week.

Murphy threw five hitless innings to get the win and close out Arizona’s 10-5 victory in Phoenix. That set the tone for the next four games, with the Wildcat relievers only allowing one earned run the entire series.