After losing to Washington in a rain-delayed contest on Sunday, the Arizona State baseball team was faced with needing to win half of its final 26 games in order to avoid falling short of 30 wins for the first time in 54 seasons.
That’s no walk in the park, considering the way the Sun Devils are playing lately. They’ve won a little more than half of their games so far – 18 out of 30 – but they haven’t posted two consecutive wins since March 13 when they swept a three-game series with UC Davis.
And the Devils have lost nine of their last 13 games.
But they’re off to a good start on the path to a .500 finish after winning Tuesday night. To make that victory even sweeter, it was against their pesky rival down south, the University of Arizona Wildcats.
The 7-5 win over the Cats, played at ASU’s new home in Phoenix Municipal Stadium, is just the first of five games the two teams will play, scattered throughout the schedule, as each tries to claim the Territorial Cup point that goes to the eventual series winner.
ASU laid claim to the first win in the series early, collecting four runs in the first two innings and stepping out to a 6-1 lead by the end of the fifth. The Sun Devils notched at least one run in five of the first six innings as six different batters picked up a hit.
By the end of the sixth inning, Arizona was in a 7-2 hole. The Cats scored a run in the eighth and two more in the ninth, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Devils’ lead.
Shortstop Colby Woodmansee led the way for ASU with a 2-for-3 night at the plate, contributing two RBIs to the win. David Greer added a solo homer and three runs scored. Right-hander Jordan Aboites started for the Devils and lefty Eli Longos got the save by entering in the ninth to record the final out.
Arizona had two players with multiple hits, as sophomore J.J. Matijevic went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs and senior Cody Ramer also enjoyed a 2-for-4 night that included a double and an RBI.
At 4-8 and ranked next to last in the Pac-12, the Sun Devils have their work cut out for them just to get into a respectable position in the conference. The Wildcats aren’t doing much better. Their 5-7 mark puts them in a tie with UCLA on the rung just above ASU.
We’ll soon find out whether beating the Wildcats has helped the Devils regain their mojo. Next up is a three-game weekend series with Pac-12 leader California, followed by another weekend series with third-place Stanford. Arizona takes on Stanford next.
If those contests don’t go well, it may turn out that winning the Territorial Cup series becomes the only bragging rights either team will have this season.
And that’s why Tuesday’s win was important to ASU fans. The team in Tempe has the upper hand right now.
(Photo: ASU Athletics)