June 2, 2002
MESA, Ariz. -- Behind an offensive attack that included 16 hits and solid work from four relief pitchers, the top seeded Houston Cougars put the finishing touches on a perfect NCAA regional tournament, defeating host Arizona State 8-3 Sunday afternoon at Hohokam Stadium.
The Cougars rolled through the NCAA Regional Tournament undefeated (3-0), moving on to face Texas in the Super Regional. Houston will take a 47-15 record in the three-game series to most likely be held at Disch-Falk Field in Austin. The Sun Devils ended the 2002 season with a 37-21 record, advancing to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in the last six years and the 26th overall in school history.
Relief pitcher Ryan Wagner picked up the win to improve to 2-1 on the year. Wagner scattered three hits and allowed only one run in four and two-thirds innings of work. Nathan Mitchell, who pitched in his school record 84th career game, Brian Henderson and Jesse Crain sealed the win with two and a third innings of scoreless relief.
ASU starter Robbie McClellan lasted only three and a third innings, giving up five runs and eight hits to finish the 2002 season 7-6. Sophomore relief pitcher Ryan Schroyer pitched the final five innings, giving up six hits and two runs.
Regional most outstanding player Keith Whatley was 3-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored to lead the Houston offense. Whatley, who started two games in the outfield and one at designated hitter, finished the three-day tournament 8-for-12 (.667) with five RBI. Catcher Chris Snyder was a perfect 4-for-4 with his 15th home run of the year. In addition to Keith Whatley, Cougar players Brett Cooley (1B), Hyung Cho (3B), Sam Mitchell (OF), Michael Bourn (OF) and Brad Sullivan (P) were all named to the all-tournament team.
The Sun Devils managed nine hits against the five Cougar pitchers, but left eight runners on base to spoil several scoring opportunities. Freshman first-team All-Pac-10 selection Dustin Pedroia put the finishing touches on a final rookie campaign, going 2-for-5 vs. Houston and was named to the all-tournament team with a .500 (10x20) average in the tournament. With his two hits Sunday, Pedroia also eclipsed the freshman school record for hits with 82, passing the old mark of 81 set by Clay Westlake in 1973.
Rod Allen, who was 1-for-3 Sunday and 6-for-15 (.400) in the tournament was an all-regional section, as was starting catcher Cesar Castillo (.385/5x16) and pitcher Carlos Arguello (2-0, 0.82 ERA). Freshman Nick Cadena contributed two hits in Sunday's loss and Castillo was 2-for-3 in his final game as a Sun Devil.
Houston set the pace early, benefiting from two ASU errors and some timely hits to take a 3-0 lead after the first inning. Consecutive singles from Michael Bourn and Whatley, with a McClellan error in between, plated the first run of the inning. The inning was seemingly over with a ground ball to sure-handed shortstop Pedroia, but a wide throw caused first baseman Jeremy West to be pulled off the base, allowing an unearned run to cross the plate. Cho plated the third run of the inning with sharp single to left field.
The Devils shrugged off the shaky defense in the first to pull right back into the game with two runs in the bottom of the second. A single by Jeff Larish and a walk to Allen preceded a run-scoring double to the left field gap by freshman designated hitter Nick Cadena. Allen was thrown out at home on the play, running through the stop sign of third base coach Mike Rooney. Castillo followed with a single up the middle to draw the Devils to within one run at 3-2.
After pulling to within one run, the Devils just couldn't hold the Cougars back. UH scored three runs in the fourth to extend its lead to 6-2. Catcher Chris Snyder belted a two-run home run to greet reliever Mark Sopko proving to be the big blow in the inning. Whatley drove home the first run of the inning with a double down the left field line.
The Devils added a run in the fifth on a two-out single from Pedoria, but did not score again as the Cougar bullpen shut the door on the perfect regional. ASU threatened by loading the bases in the ninth, but Crain notched his 33rd consecutive shutout inning to finish the game.