To quote a well-known baseball philosopher, it was “déjà vu, all over again” for the Arizona State baseball team in the early going at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson last night.
Arizona State (29-12-1) faced the University of Arizona in the second game of this year’s Territorial Cup series, and hoped to reverse its fortunes after a heartbreaking 10-9 loss to the Wildcats on April 16.
Mission accomplished for head coach Tim Esmay’s squad: ASU prevailed 7-5 over Arizona. The Sun Devils are 20-11 against the Wildcats in the past six seasons, including 10-6 in Tucson. They currently lead in the Territorial Cup standings, 7.5-6.5.
The first inning didn’t look good for No. 16 ASU. Starting pitcher Zak Miller hit a batter and then threw 10 consecutive balls. Arizona (28-15) took advantage of the Sun Devils’ slow start to gain a 3-0 lead. ASU then rallied to take a 4-3 lead in the third inning. The Sun Devils fell behind again by one run in the fifth before scoring one in the sixth and two in the eighth to secure their fifth consecutive win.
ASU went 14-4 this past month and reached the 14-win mark in April for the first time since 1988.
Sun Devil right-hander Darin Gillies (2-2) collected his second consecutive win and right-hander Ryan Burr (10) recorded his 10th save of the season with a strong performance in the ninth inning. Freshman first baseman Dalton DiNatale was the offensive star for ASU with three RBI.
Esmay was relieved to earn the win in an important rivalry matchup. “Our guys said ‘oh boy’ (after falling behind in the first inning) and moved forward instead of dwelling on it. We did a real good job of hanging in there. We needed Miller to go five innings and our guys came back and scored to stay true to what we wanted to do.”
Arizona State hosts Stanford for a three-game Pac-12 series this weekend. Friday’s game begins at 7 p.m., while first pitch on Saturday is at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday is scheduled for a 12:30 p.m. start. Stanford (24-15) is coming off a convincing 9-1 win over St. Mary’s on Tuesday.