April 16, 2004
By Brian Gomez
LOS ANGELES - A little support can go a long way. OK, make that a lot of support.
Just ask Arizona State senior right-hander Jeff Mousser.
Gunning for his first win since Feb. 27, Mousser stayed in control Friday against UCLA to the tune of one run on five hits in seven innings, and benefited from an offense that exploded for 12 runs and a defense that made enough plays to fill a highlight reel.
Junior Dustin Pedroia tied a career high with four hits, but the true heroics came in the bottom of the seventh, when sophomore Travis Buck robbed UCLA catcher Chris Denove of a three-run home run by going over the right field fence to make a spectacular catch that triggered a triple play.
"I was hitting my spots," said Mousser, whose seven-inning performance was his longest since the Feb. 6 season opener against Florida State. "I was locating pitches, and I was trying to get them to put it in play. I've got a good defense behind me, so that's what I was trying to do."
Mousser (2-3) allowed only two hits over the first six innings before running into a jam in the seventh. That's when Buck bailed him out.
Leaping over the fence in right field, Buck brought back a home run that was destined for the Jackie Robinson Stadium parking lot. UCLA's runners had already begun circling the bases when Buck miraculously appeared with the ball, and relayed it in to complete the triple play, the first in recorded ASU history.
"Right when it was hit, I had a feeling that it was going to be a home run, and as I was running back toward the fence, it came down, and I put forth my best effort," said Buck, whose waist was nearly at the top of the wall when he made the catch. "I jumped and hung over the fence, and it (the ball) fell in. I had to hold myself on the fence so I didn't fall over because my whole momentum was pretty much going to carry me over the fence."
Had Buck not made the catch, ASU's comfortable lead would have turned into a 10-4 cushion, and a dark spot would have been cast on Mousser's stellar outing.
"That pretty much saved my start," Mousser said. "I already had the ball from the umpire, and the next thing, I turn around, and we had turned a triple play."
Despite the bizarre sequence of events, Mousser was in command from start to finish, largely because his off-speed pitches were clicking. He allowed two runners to reach base in the third, but ended the inning by striking out UCLA junior Matt Thayer on a curveball that dipped over the middle of the plate.
"They're a pretty decent off-speed-hitting team," Mousser said, "so getting ahead early with it and then going back to it late was the key."
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