And this was just the first game of rivalry weekend.
Chase Davis obliterated a solo home run to right field with 1 out in the bottom of the 10th inning, giving Arizona a 7-6 comeback win over ASU on Friday night.
A season-high crowd of 5,663, the eighth-largest crowd at Hi Corbett Field since the UA moved there in 2012, witnessed a 3 1/2-hour roller coaster that saw Arizona (27-12, 12-7 Pac-12) jump out to a 4-0 lead then fall behind 6-4 before tying it up in the bottom of the eighth and walking it off in the 10th.
“It’s actually my first walk-off home run I’ve ever hit in my life, so that was a good time to have it,” said Davis, who leads the Wildcats with 12 homers and has two in two games this season against ASU.
Davis’ bomb went 414 feet, landing on top of the Terry Francona Hitting Center. It came off the bat at 107 mph, enabling it to slice through a strong wind that had been blowing in from center- and right field most of the night.
“I stood at the plate for a little bit, like I like to do, and I was like, okay, that ball has to go over, it has to go over or Coach is going to chew me out,” said Davis, who was 2 for 5 with two runs scored.
Davis’ other run scored came in the 2-run bottom of the eighth when he walked with one out and then came home on a triple to the gap in left-center by Mac Bingham. Bingham then scored to tie it at 6 on a single from Tommy Splaine.
Arizona scored two each in the second and third, the first two coming in on a Tanner O’Tremba single. The Wildcats had been 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position before that and finished the game 3 for 16 in that category, following an 8 for 55 performance on the previous road trip.
A 2-out RBI single by Garen Caulfield made it 3-0, then O’Tremba was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to make it 4-0.
O’Tremba and ASU starting pitcher Adam Tulloch exchanged words both during and after the at-bat, one of many times the emotion of the rivalry bled into the action.
“It’s a rivalry weekend, it’s a rivalry game,” UA coach Chip Hale said. “Listen, when the school from north comes down here or we go up there, you know it’s going to be emotional.”
ASU (19-20, 8-8) got a run in the top of the fourth and two more in the fifth, chasing UA starter TJ Nichols after he couldn’t find the zone. Nichols walked three and threw four wild pitches before getting pulled.
Hale said Nichols may have been affected by not throwing a side session since his last start at Utah after experiencing arm soreness.
“He felt good, but it’s the same story,” Hale said. “It’s the walks, it’s the wild pitches, letting runners advance. We have to clean that stuff up.”
It was against Quinn Flanagan, though, that ASU took a 5-4 lead in the seventh on a 2-run homer by Conor Davis. His blast to left came after getting booed by the crowd, a lingering reaction to a 6th-inning encounter between him and Bingham when they nearly collided at first on a Bingham groundout and then started jawing at each other.
“The kid did a great job of hitting it,” Hale said of Conor Davis, a transfer from Auburn. “Obviously it was a very emotional at-bat. He was getting pretty, pretty loud boos at him, and you gotta give him credit. He did a nice job of staying calm, and he hit a hit a hanging breaking ball, which happens. That’s baseball.”
ASU added a run in the 7th and, after the game was tied by Arizona in the eighth, had scoring chances in the 9th and 10th against UA closer Trevor Long. Long allowed two leadoff singles to start the ninth and then the next three Sun Devils hit balls 98 mph or better but all directly at Wildcat outfielders, and in the 10th he yielded a walk and a single and then a wild pitch before getting a ground out to set up Chase Davis’ heroics.
Long, who improved to 3-0 and lowered his ERA to 0.73, has had 10 consecutive scoreless outings spanning 13 innings. He threw 31 pitches, though, but Hale said the sophomore should be available Saturday.
“Hopefully he’ll be okay for tomorrow and Sunday,” Hale said. “It’s a rivalry weekend so guys have got to be ready.”