ASU, UA in regional baseball finals, but Cats are in a hole

Arizona and Arizona State have both advanced to the championship games in their NCAA baseball regionals.  But the Wildcats had to do it the hard way…and still hold the short end of the stick.

(Update: Senior second baseman Bryce Ortega led the Wildcats against Texas A&M with a 3-for-3 performance at the plate, and Josh Garcia smacked a home run, as the Wildcats won tonight’s game, 7-4.  The Cats collected 11 total hits.  The teams will play for the Texas Regional championship tomorrow. ASU made it three straight, beating Arkansas tonight, 13-4, to advance to a Super Regional.)

ASU won both of its first two games, hosting the regional at Packard Stadium, but struggled against New Mexico before rolling over Charlotte to get them to the finals.

It took a three-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning by Joey DeMichele to take down New Mexico in a game that was scoreless until the sixth inning.  New Mexico, the Mountain West Conference champion, took a 2-0 lead in that inning and ASU was able to put one run on the board in the seventh, courtesy of a Deven Marrero double, but were still trailing going into the final inning.

But yesterday’s game against Charlotte, the Atlantic 10 tournament champion, was a completely different story.  After logging just five hits against New Mexico, six Sun Devils notched multiple hits and the crew combined for a total of 19.

Xorge Carillo led the assault with a career-high five hits, including three RBIs and four runs.  Andrew Aplin added two doubles and a triple in a 3-for-4 performance.

And Kramer Champlin put the lid on the Charlotte hitters, going the distance in the run-ruled seven-inning game.  The imposing 6’6″ right-hander from Washington racked up nine strikeouts and allowed just one hit, extending his season record to 9-3.

Now the Sun Devils await the winner of this afternoon’s game between Charlotte and Arkansas.

But UofA was stunned in its opener in the Texas Regional at College Station, getting blanked by Seton Hall, 4-0.  That gave the Cats a loss in the double-elimination format and means they will now have to win two more to earn the title.  ASU needs just one to move on to the Super Regionals.

Against third-seeded Seton Hall, the Wildcats scattered six singles but couldn’t get a single extra-base hit the entire game.

But that all changed in the second game, when Arizona took out its frustration on Wright State.  The Cats piled up 15 hits enroute to a 13-0 win Saturday afternoon.

The 13 runs were the most in a pre-season game since the Cats put up 13 against Eastern Michigan in a regional contest in 2008, and the 15 hits were the most since 2007, when the Cats racked up 16 in the Wichita Regional.

Wright State threw five different pitchers at Arizona to try to stem the bleeding, while Kyle Simon went the distance for the Cats.  The junior right-hander scattered four hits and struck out five, while giving up no walks.

And, finally, this morning Arizona beat Seton Hall to stay alive.   Freshman Konner Wade took the mound for the Cats and pitched a career-high seven innings to take his rookie record to 3-0.

Wade, a graduate of Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, scattered three hits and struck out two to drop his ERA to 3.21.  He was pulled in the eighth inning after walking a third batter, but the Cats were up 6-0 at that point and would hold on to that score for the win.

Arizona (38-20) now plays Texas A&M (44-18) this afternoon at 4:35.  Since Arizona has a loss, if they beat the Aggies, if will force a second game tomorrow for the championship.  An Aggies win would give them the title and entry to the Super Regional round, the last hurdle to get to the 2011 College World Series.

(Photo: Arizona Athletics)