Beautiful spring weather, the excitement of the opening baseball games in Pac-10 play, and a match-up between two nationally-ranked teams that lead the conference in most offensive categories.
All that combined this weekend to bring sell-out crowds to Sun Devil Stadium as Arizona State hosts University of Arizona in a three-game series.
And then add the drama for today’s series finale that comes with a 1-1 split Friday and Saturday.
(*Update: ASU won today, 8-1, giving them a 2-1 mark to open conference play. Austin Barnes and Riccio Torrez each went 2-for-3 at the plate and Jake Barrett got the win on the mound.)
ASU entered the series as the No. 6 team in the nation. Arizona came in at No. 15. The teams also carried identical season records at 16-5.
They are still tied (17-6) after two games, and now are tied in the series as well, going into this afternoon’s game. So expect another 4,371 fans through the turnstiles today.
The Wildcats took the opener, 5-2, in a come-from-behind victory by running up 12 base hits and putting their lead-off hitters on base six times.
ASU used a Joey DeMichele triple in the second inning and a lead-off home run by Matt Newman in the fourth to take a 3-0. But the Wildcats began their comeback in the sixth when Jett Bandy led off with a double, and then took the lead for good in the next inning.
Bandy and Seth Mejias-Brean each collected three hits on the night, while Kurt Heyer pitched 7.1 innings for the win, upping his record to 4-1.
In yesterday’s game, the Sun Devils turned the tables with a 5-1 win behind a 3-for-4 performance at the plate by both Deven Marrero and Xorge Carrillo.
Another triple by DeMichele got the scoring going for the Devils in the second inning and a Carrillo double three batters later threw fuel on the fire to propel the hosts to a 4-0 lead.
The Sun Devils used three pitchers to get the job done, with Brady Rodgers on the mound for the first seven innings to boost his season record to 3-1, and then giving way to Joseph Lopez and Mitchell Lambson for an innning each to wrap it up.
The Sun Devils, who came into this series hitting .331 as a team and scoring better than six runs per fame, are coming off a split with Cal State Fullerton. But, prior to that, took two games from then-No. 2 Oklahoma.
Arizona dropped a pair to Wichita State on the road, but then settled down at home to win three straight against San Francisco before preparing to face ASU in the conference opener.
Both teams have a full conference schedule ahead of them and are still moving players around to try and find the right mix that will take them back to the playoffs.
They will also face each other two more times on down the schedule, playing a pair of single-game contests in Tucson next month. The results of all five games will determine which team gets the point toward the all-sports Territorial Cup Series, which Arizona currently leads 7.5 to 3.5.
But right now, the winner of this series gives one of these two teams the first edge in the conference standings.
And, of course, the usual bragging rights.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)