Leading 6-3 with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning, Arizona was more than halfway toward finishing off a fifth straight victory, all on the road, with the last coming against rival ASU.
Then one grounder was booted by an outfielder playing in the infield, setting into motion a series of unfortunate events that would send the Wildcats back to Tucson with a head-shaking loss.
ASU scored four runs in the fifth, two in the sixth and one in the eighth, all of them unearned, to beat Arizona 10-6 on Tuesday night in a nonconference game in Phoenix. The teams will meet for their regular Pac-12 series April 22-24 at Hi Corbett Field.
Arizona (21-8) built its lead via the long ball, getting its first five runs off homers. Tanner O’Tremba hit a 2-run shot in the top of the first, Tony Bullard hit solo homers in the second and fourth innings and Chase Davis cracked a solo blast for his team-leading 10th in the third.
A Noah Turley 2-out RBI single, the seventh hit of the game for the Wildcats, gave them a 6-3 lead in the fifth. They wouldn’t get another hit, producing just two walks over the final 3.1 innings with the last 10 batters failing to reach after ASU (14-16) took the lead.
ASU had a runner on first with two out in the bottom of the fifth when Ryan Campos hit a sharp grounder toward UA second baseman Tyler Casagrande. Casagrande, who had played outfield before this season, couldn’t field it, keeping the inning alive, and after a single brought in a run to make it 6-4 the Sun Devils took the lead on a 3-run homer by Kai Murphy.
The Devils added two more unearned runs in the sixth on a 2-run single by Tobias, who came to the plate that inning because Bullard made a bad throw on a grounder to start the frame. An errant throw by catcher Daniel Susac on a pickoff attempt at third brought in ASU’s 10th run in the eighth.
Arizona’s three errors give it 39 this season, with those miscues resulting in 40 unearned runs.
The UA returns to action Friday at home when it opens a 3-game series against Washington State at 6 p.m. PT. The Wildcats, at 9-3, have a 1.5-game lead on UCLA for first place in the Pac-12.