Unless you put the game results up side-by-side, you probably wouldn’t notice. But upon closer examination, you’d see that yesterday’s season openers for ASU and UofA baseball were eerily similar.
Arizona State beat Northern Illinois in its opener. University of Arizona beat Utah Valley in its first game of the season. ASU’s score was 8-0, UofA’s was 8-1.
The Sun Devils used four different pitchers for the shutout. The Wildcats threw three pitchers at Utah Valley.
The UofA trio were all freshmen. Right-hander Kurt Heyer, who started the game, was especially impressive as he recorded 13 strike-outs, giving up one run and three hits during six innings on the mound. Seth Blair went the first five innings for the Devils and got the win, allowing three hits and striking out five.
UofA had one big inning early to take command of its game, scoring five runs in the second. All five runs came after the Cats had put two outs on the board. Bryce Ortega drove in the first run and then Rafael Valenzulea cleared the bases with a triple and then came home on a single by Steve Selsky.
ASU also broke out the bats for a one-inning outburst, doing its damage in the third inning, when they scored five runs on an RBI triple by Zack MacPhee and a three-run homer from Matt Newman.
The Sun Devils are ranked No. 5 nationally and this win improved their season-opener record to 40-11-1 all-time.
This opener, in front of a crowd of 3,011, also marks the first victory for Tim Esmay as the head coach at ASU. Esmay took over on an interim basis when the school parted ways after last season with its winningest coach, Pat Murphy. Since Esmay was on staff and had a good rapport with the players, it seemed the logical choice going forward.
A couple of notes of interest: Zack Wilson, a sophomore infielder, got the first home run of his career when he started the Sun Devil scoring in the second inning… and Jeff Bandy contributed three hits for the Wildcats. Arizona had 13 hits in that game.
And one more parting similarity. We think the Wolverine, the Utah Valley mascot, is a second-cousin to the Husky, the Northern Illinois mascot.
OK, so it’s a stretch. But, heck, we might even be right.
(Photo credit: ASU Athletics)