June 1, 2002
MESA, Ariz. - The No. 2 seed Arizona State baseball team fell 8-4 to top-seeded Houston Saturday afternoon at Hohokam Stadium, putting the Sun Devils in a must-win situation in Saturday's night game against San Diego.
With the win, Houston (46-15) advances to Sunday's 1 p.m. championship game, where it will face the winner of Arizona State and San Diego. ASU will send left-hander Carlos Arguello (4-1, 2.30 ERA) to the mound for his third start of the season against San Diego right-hander Aaron Wilson (5-4, 4.65 ERA).
UH starting pitcher Danny Zell limited the Devils to only three hits and one run in five and two-third innings. He improved his impressive season record to 8-1 and lowered his ERA from 2.16 to 2.11. Four Houston relievers went the rest of the way with Jesse Crain slamming the door in the ninth by recording the final two outs.
ASU starter Mike Esposito (9-6) took the loss in a complete game, his third of the year. He allowed eight runs (six earned) on 13 hits, throwing 112 pitches.
Houston took an early 1-0 lead after its first at-bat with an unearned run. Leadoff hitter Michael Bourn reached on a bunt single and moved to third on a throwing error on an attempted pickoff by Esposito. Bourn scored on a line drive sacrifice fly to center field by Keith Whatley.
ASU scored its first run of the game with a two-out RBI single by right fielder Andre Ethier. The run-scoring single from Ethier marked his first hit of the regional (previously 0-for-7) and extended ASU's NCAA record of consecutive games with a run scored to 431 games.
Two runs in the fifth and three in the sixth staked the Cougars to a 6-1 lead. Crain, the starting shortstop, provided the big blow in the sixth with a two-out, two-strike, two-run double down the right field line.
Houston scored two more insurance runs in the seventh that wound up being a factor in the game. Hyung Cho led off the inning with his sixth home run of the season, and two batters later, Whatley drove home Bourn with a run-scoring single to make it 8-1.
Another RBI single from Ethier made it 8-2 in the eighth, and the Devils trimmed it to 8-4 with two more runs in the ninth, one coming on a Dustin Pedroia single. After an error on Cho at shortstop loaded the bases, Ethier stepped to the plate representing the tying run. But Crain got Ethier to pop out to left field on a 2-2 pitch to send the Cougars into Sunday's title game.