SCOTTSDALE—There’s a really good chance Arizona’s run in the Pac-12 Tournament will come to an end on Saturday, and that’s fine. Having it not happen the day before was what really mattered.
The Wildcats staved off elimination by sending their rival into the offseason, rallying to beat ASU 8-6 on Friday afternoon at Scottsdale Stadium. Fifth-seeded Arizona (37-22) moves on to face No. 1 Stanford at 9 a.m. PT, needing to beat the Cardinal—who thumped the UA 15-8 on Thursday—twice to advance to Sunday’s Pac-12 final.
“It’s win or go home, and you definitely don’t want to go home,” said center fielder Mac Bingham, whose bases-clearing triple with two out in the bottom of the eighth inning was the game-winning hit. “You definitely don’t want to go home against your rival.”
Arizona will likely be without one of its best players for Saturday, though, as sophomore catcher Daniel Susac was lifted after three innings due to an illness. Coach Chip Hale said Susac had been throwing up before, and apparently during, the game, and his status will be evaluated in the morning.
Susac still managed to hit a 3-run home run, doing so right before coming out.
Bingham’s triple, his conference-leading seventh, came off ASU closer Brock Peery, and sailed over ASU CF Joe Lampe’s head after he initially took a step in on contact. Bingham said it reminded him of a triple he hit in an early-season win over Oklahoma at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.
“I knew I got it well,” he said. “Lampe is a really good outfielder, he’s tracked down a lot of balls when we played at Hi Corbett so I was a little nervous at first. But when I saw him come in, it reminded me of Arlington. Similar play when the outfielder came in, so I thought maybe it had a chance to beat him. And when I saw him turn his numbers I knew it had a chance.”
Arizona loaded the bases with one out on leadoff walks to Chase Davis and Tony Bullard, prompting ASU (26-32) to bring in Peery. Garen Caulfield sacrificed the runners into scoring position, then Noah Turley was intentionally walked and Arizona sent Tyler Casagrande up to pinch hit.
Casagrande foul popped out on the first pitch, but with an 0-1 count Bingham came through.
“Again, they just stuck to it,” said Hale, whose team also rallied late to beat Oregon 8-6 on Wednesday. “They were not going to be denied. That was a beautiful job of hitting. When he catches it right, his backspin is as good as anybody. So I knew it was gonna go.”
Arizona was down 6-5 after its most dependable reliever, Quinn Flanagan, gave up two runs in the seventh. They were driven in by ASU freshman catcher Ryan Campos, who had been part of Arizona’s 2021 signing class but ended up playing for the enemy.
Campos was 3 for 4 with four RBI, driving in both of ASU’s runs in the top of the first.
The UA went ahead via a 5-run third in which Susac and Tanner O’Tremba hit back-to-back homers, both to the opposite field. Susac’s 3-run blast came after Hale and trainer James Ready had decided he was coming out, but the future first-round MLB pick talked his way into one last at-bat.
Flanagan got the win despite giving up the lead, while Trevor Long allowed just a single to a top of the ASU lineup that was 9 for 18 with four extra-base hits, five RBI and six runs scored.
UA starter TJ Nichols had one of his best outings in recent memory, though his line wouldn’t show it. He allowed four runs and seven hits over six innings, but only walked one and after ASU’s first three batters of the game got hits he retired 12 of the next 15.
“I think he did great,” Hale said. “Really good. Think of the hits: bouncers, flares. I don’t think there was any ball squared up against him the whole game.”
By beating ASU, the UA took the season series 3-2.
Arizona will send freshman right-hander Anthony ‘Tonko’ Susac (4-2, 8.39) against Stanford, which has won 14 in a row. The Cardinal (39-14) will counter with righty Joey Dixon (5-3, 3.12).