By: Brian Kreps – Contributing Writer
May 15, 2016
TUCSON, Ariz. – After playing scoreless baseball through four innings, the Arizona Wildcats were finally able to push across two runs in fifth inning and two more in the sixth. Arizona State answered with two runs of its own in the eighth, but it wasn’t enough as the Wildcats held on for a 4-2 win at Hi Corbett Field in front of record crowd of 8,067 fans in attendance.
With the win, Arizona and Arizona State are now even – in this current series and in the Territorial Cup Series. The two interstate rivals are now 1-1 in this current three-game series and stand at 2-2 in the Territorial Cup Series. The deciding game will be Sunday at 3 p.m. PDT at Hi Corbett Field.
In Saturday’s game, starting pitchers Eli Lingos and JC Cloney kept the offenses quiet for the first four innings, before Arizona scored twice in the fifth inning. Freshman Cesar Salazar and junior Louis Boyd both walked and advanced to second and third base, respectively, on a sacrifice bunt by senior Justin Behnke. Salazar scored on a sacrifice fly by senior Cody Ramer and Boyd scored on a single by senior Zach Gibbons, giving the Wildcats a 2-0 lead.
The Wildcats (32-17, 15-11 in Pac-12) kept the pressure on in the sixth as senior Ryan Aguilar started the inning off with a double and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore JJ Matijevic. Junior Kyle Lewis singled to drive in Aguilar.
Salazar followed with a single, advancing Lewis to third. Lewis would then score on a bunt by Boyd, increasing Arizona’s lead to 4-0.
“We didn’t give ourselves a chance tonight by walking eight guys,” Arizona State head coach Tracy Smith said. “That’s the stuff that’s a little frustrating. We lose the game tonight because we walked people.”
Smith also said that those mistakes are even more problematic when facing a quality pitcher.
“He’s a strike thrower. He’s like Seth (Martinez). He moved the ball in and out. He makes you get yourself out,” Smith said. “They made plays defensively behind him. I thought we hit some balls hard, we just didn’t have any results for it. He’s good. He’s a winning pitcher for a reason.”
The Sun Devils (30-17, 12-11 in Pac-12) finally got to Cloney (5-3) in the eighth when junior Sebastian Zawada launched a solo home run, his seventh of the season, to cut the deficit to 4-1. With one out in the inning, senior R.J. Ybarra, batting for senior Jordan Aboites, walked. Freshman Jeremy McCuin then entered as a pinch runner and advanced to third on a single by freshman Gage Canning. McCuin scored on a single by junior David Greer. On the play, Canning advanced to third. Junior Colby Woodmansee then walked to load the bases, however, sophomore Andrew Snow struck out to end the inning.
“It feels great to come back to a place where I developed as a player. It’s even better after being given the opportunity to play for ASU,” Zawada said. “Offensively, the coaching staff and team are working constantly and were not backing down. We got a lot of fight left, couldn’t be more proud to play for this squad.”
Lingos (3-4) pitched into the sixth inning, allowing three runs on three hits, four walks and two strikeouts before giving way to the bullpen, where four different pitchers were used.
“In a 0-0 game, you cannot walk batters seven and eight. That was disappointing. They weren’t even close,” Smith said. “They were trying to give us an out (bunt) and we walked him on four pitches. That’s not helping to win.”
For the Wildcats, Dalbec got the final four outs, picking up his seventh save of the season, and tying a school record with 14 career saves, and now tied for fifth all time.
On Friday night, the attendance record at Hi Corbett Field was broken with a crowd of 6,324. On Saturday night, a record was broken again with a crowd of 8,067, the most ever for a Arizona vs Arizona State game since 1967.
“Honestly, I think they love the Sun Devils (here). It’s the biggest crowed ever,” Smith said, jokingly. “I think everybody came out to see the Sun Devils. We appreciate their support.”
Despit the loss, Smith is confident heading into today’s finale.
” I feel good. We’re ready. We’re not happy with the result tonight. Our guys played hard. I think we’re really looking forward to getting on this diamond tomorrow,” Smith said. “If you throw strikes in this ballpark, you give yourself a chance to win. So we’re gonna go with our best strike thrower right now (Aboites), and try and get out of here with two of out three.”