The ASU-UofA baseball rivalry has taken on a new significance this season. At least for Arizona State, it has.
The Sun Devils just beat Arizona, 10-5, to post their third win in four games against the Wildcats already this season. They meet one more time, on the 26th of this month in Tucson.
For ASU, these wins against their arch rival have taken on a special meaning this season. These games will help define a season that will end with the conclusion of the Pac-10 Tournament, since post-season play is not an option.
The post-season ban is a result of the penalties handed down by the NCAA, following an investigation of the program during the tenure of former head coach, Pat Murphy. That limits the season’s goals to a first-place finish in the conference, a Pac-10 title… and beating Arizona as often as possible.
But no shot at a national championship. And that’s hard to swallow for a 22-6 team that is playing good enough to make a run at the College World Series.
Last year, they were ranked No. 1 in the nation when they lost their first two games in the CWS, falling to Clemson, 6-3, and then being eliminated by South Carolina in a shocking 11-4 loss. They finished the season 52-10.
Right now they are ranked No. 5 in the nation and on a roll, winning seven of their last eight games.
And the pitching has been stifling. Eight members of the pitching staff have already recorded 20 or more strikeouts each, led by Jake Barrett with 45 in 42 innings on the mound. Except for the five runs Arizona put on the board, the ASU hurlers have held opponents to an average of .87 runs per game over the last eight games.
Meanwhile, they’ve piled up 54 runs of their own over that same span.
Tuesday’s win against a good Arizona team that is 20-9 and ranked No. 22 was a typical Sun Devil assault. Deven Marrero had four hits and scored four runs, while Matt Newman drove in four more runs. Johnny Ruettiger, Zack MacPhee, and Andy Workman piled on with a pair of hits from each.
Tomorrow, the Sun Devils begin a three-game series with Oregon State in Corvallis. ASU took two of three from the Beavers last season in Tempe.
Beating the Beavers would be nice. But you’ve gotta believe the Devils have one eye down the road to that next meeting with Arizona.
This season, they have to pack everything they can into the regular season. Thank you, Pat Murphy.
(Photo: ASU Athletics)