Finally! ASU captures Pac-10 baseball title outright

Talk about drama!  A season-ending series with Stanford and a conference baseball title were decided in today’s third and final game with the Cardinal.

Not only did Arizona State wait until the very last game of the regular season to clinch the Pac-10 crown, but they played a see-saw game with Stanford as the lead exchanged hands inning after inning.

Finally, Jordan Swaggerty, the third Sun Devil pitcher on the night, struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth to shut the door and preserve an 8-6 win.  In the series opener Thursday, Swaggerty broke the school record for saves with 13, and then added a cushion with his 14th in today’s victory.

The Devils secured a share of the Pac-10 championship in Thursday’s opener at Sunken Diamond Stadium  in Palo Alto, winning 4-2 in a game that saw ASU batters pile up 11 hits.  Drew Maggi, Zach Wilson, Johnny Ruettiger, and Deven Marrero each had a pair of hits.

That win marked the fourth consecutive year that ASU has earned at least a share of the Pac-10 championship.

In the second game, the vaunted Devil bats went almost silent, as they struggled to score a single run and narrowly avoided a shutout – which would have been the first since the 2006 season.  But the Cardinal helped them out of the situation by loading the bases on walks in the ninth inning and Raoul Torrez singled home two runs in the 5-2 loss.

But the series finale this afternoon gave each team a chance to put runs on the board – which they did.

Maggi opened the contest with his third home run of the season, a shot to left field that established the first lead of the game, but Stanford wasted no time in taking it back as Adam Gaylord smashed his own round trip that scored two runs and made it 2-0.

Maggi came back in the third with his second homer of the game to tie things up, and then ASU took the lead again in the fourth on yet another home run, this time by Torrez, to make it 4-2.

Stanford scored three more in the bottom of the fourth and regained the lead, 5-4, but ASU took it back in the seventh when Zack MacPhee’s two-run single made it 6-5.  A Deven Marrero RBI single tacked on another run in the eighth, but Stanford scored one of their own in the bottom of that inning.

But the Devils pushed the lead to 8-6 in the top of the ninth when Torrez went to work again, doubling home MacPhee.  And then Swaggerty closed out the game with three straight k’s.

Torrez was 3-for-4 on the night, with three RBIs, and Maggi finished with three hits of his own.

The win had no effect on the Sun Devils’ plans for the post-season, since they had already locked up a berth in the College World Series.  But on Monday the NCAA will release the field of 64 teams that will be participating.

Rival University of Arizona is not assured of a berth, so they will be much more interested in Monday’s posting.  The Cats are on the road at Corvallis, Ore., to play a series with Oregon State.  They dropped their first game to the Beavers, 6-3.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)