ASU-UA baseball… today’s game offers a mirror image

Tonight’s ASU v. UofA baseball game may be the most evenly-matched contest since the first game was played between the two rivals back in 1907.

The Sun Devils enter the game ranked No. 1 in the USA Today/ESPN coaches Top 25 and the Wildcats are ranked No. 17, having moved up four places after a sweep of Washington State.

But from there the similarities get downright spooky.

These are two of the nation’s best offensive teams.  ASU has compiled 31 wins, while the Cats have 26 in one less game played.

Both teams enter the game at Packard Stadium sporting exactly 300 runs for the season.  UA leads the Pac-10 conference with a .355 team batting average and ASU is close behind at .342.

Arizona does not depend on the long ball, having hit just 24 home runs this year.  However, ASU gets it done in much the same fashion.  The Devils have 26 homers to their credit.

They’re even eerily similar on the base paths, where ASU leads the league with 78 stolen bases.  The Cats have just seven fewer, with 71 thefts.

Both teams are coming off series sweeps of Pac-10 opponents.  ASU completed a three-games sweep of USC in a 14-6 win Sunday that saw eight of nine players in the starting line-up get a hit, compiling 13 hits in all.  UofA swept Washington State on the road for their first series sweep of the season, culminating in a come-from-behind 12-11 victory Sunday.

And both squads are coming off emotional highs from the weekend’s games.

UofA was just one inning away from getting beat in the series finale, trailing the Cougars 11-8 going into the ninth.  After getting runners on the bases, a single to left by senior Rafael Valenzuela sealed the win and the series sweep.

Emotions hit the boiling point in a different way down in Tempe where the Devils were playing host to USC.  The Trojans, trailing by nine runs in the eighth inning and facing a series sweep that seemed inevitable, lit the fire when their pitcher, Alex Sherrod, threw behind the back of Drew Maggi.  The scuffle that erupted caused the ejection of assistant coaches from both teams.

The Wildcats, at 26-9, are off to their best start since 2007.  The Sun Devils got off to their best start ever, besting the 21-0 start that held the record since 1961.

It just doesn’t get any better than this.

It’s a mid-week game and considered a non-conference match-up.  A second non-conference game will be played on May 4 before the Pac-10 games May 15-17, which will be played in Tucson.

But that shouldn’t keep the fans away from this kind of a rivalry game.  They packed the house to its 4,371 capacity on Saturday to watch a 5-3 Devil win against USC.  This game should offer much more.  It’s not just a rivalry, but a grudge match between two of the best teams in the nation.

Forget the fact that ASU is 22-0 at home.  This is for something more important than records or statistics.

This is for bragging rights.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)