Coming into this weekend’s three-game series at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson, the Arizona State and University of Arizona baseball teams looked like mirror images.
ASU had 29 wins and UofA had 31. Both had 16 losses.
ASU had won 10 out of its previous 12 games. UofA won nine of its last 12.
The most glaring difference was that Arizona had earned its way into a top-25 national ranking. The No. 20 Wildcats entered the rankings after a series sweep of then-No. 13 Oregon State last weekend.
But after last night’s 5-2 loss to an unranked ASU squad in the series opener, that ranking was about to be very short-lived.
The Devils put their hosts back on their heels to open the game when lead-off hitter Gage Canning slammed a triple that started a five-run barrage. And then Seth Martinez went to work. ASU’s junior right-hander from Sunrise Mountain High School retired 14 straight batters, striking out six, before turning it over to Eder Erives with one out in the eighth.
Arizona scored a run in the seventh when third baseman Bobby Dalbec tripled with two outs, then advanced on a passed ball. The Cats added a second run in the eighth, but it was too little, too late.
Last night, Arizona evened the five-game Territorial Cup series with a 4-2 victory. The two teams played twice earlier in mid-week non-conference games, splitting the two games.
It looked like ASU was in sync again for its next win when Eli Lingos, the sophomore left-hander, held the Wildcats to just one hit through the first four innings. But Lingos gave up three runs on two hits before handing the ball to freshman James Ryan one out into the sixth inning. Head coach Tracy Smith sent three more freshmen to the mound before the game was over, but the Cats made the adjustment to each.
Cody Ramer singled to score Cesar Salazar in the fifth for the Cats’ first run, and then Zach Gibbons singled in Louis Boyd to go up 2-0. A two-run inning in the sixth gave Arizona the cushion it needed to notch the win.
ASU finally got its offense going in the eighth when designated hitter Sebastian Zawada homered to right, his seventh of the season, and was followed by consecutive base hits from RJ Ybarra, Canning, and David Greer to put two runs on the board. The Devils had the bases loaded, with the tying run on second when Dalbec switched from third to the mound and doused the rally with a strike-out to end the threat.
Arizona set a new attendance record with 6,324 fans for the opener, and then seating 8,067 for last night’s contest, the most since leaving their home on campus and relocating to Hi Corbett four years ago.
Today’s game will determine who gets the baseball point in the Territorial Cup competition between the two rivals – and might also be the deciding factor in whether the Wildcats get to keep their national ranking.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)